This sector is worth 6 billion Euro in total and it is characterised by an ever-increasing technological innovation and product level
Poultry farming is one of the sectors registering the highest growth rates in the domestic animal husbandry industry, with the Lombardy, Veneto, Romagna and Marche regions as its hubs of excellence, turning the production of poultry meat and eggs into a 6 billion Euro business, which makes the poultry supply chain one of the strongholds of the Italian agri-food system.
Here are some detailed facts and figures for this industry.
The poultry meat business
In 2016 poultry meat production in Italy amounted to 1,366,268,000 tons, an increased by about 5% compared to 2015, which affected both chicken (981,513 t, i.e. about +5.6%) and turkey, with 331,859 t, i.e. +6% (source: Istat).
The supply of poultry meat accounts for about 22% of meat production value, about 14% that of animal husbandry as a whole, and just over 4% of the value produced by agriculture as a whole.
Exports account for less than 10% of production; more specifically they consist for over 60% of butchered animals (deboned, halves or quarters, wings, legs, necks, breasts), for 24% of animals slaughtered whole, while the rest is made up of giblets, livers and prepared food (about 10-11%). In the poultry industry the first link along the production chain consists of about 6,200 farms, 43% of which rear chickens, 12% turkeys and l’11% other types of poultry (guinea fowl, geese, etc.), while the others rear laying hens. As regards the subsequent transformation phase, the poultry meat processing industry includes 173 slaughterhouses, 497 primary processing and 20 secondary processing facilities.
The turnover of the poultry meat industry amounts to 3.5 billion euro, which accounts for 3.5% of the whole Italian food industry (source: Inea). For comparison purposes, the turnover for beef amounts to 5.8 billion euro, that is to say 5.3% of the total.
As regards distribution channels, over the past five years large-scale retailing has increased by six percent in terms of value, to the detriment of the “traditional grocery store” business channel, reaching 62% of the total as regards volumes of poultry meat sold (61% in value). Traditional grocery stores, on the other hand, have dropped by as much as ten percent, which means that they currently account for 22% in volume, but 24% in value.
Eggs: increasingly sustainable
Italian production, amounting to 810,000 tons of product, is stable at 13 billion eggs and is worth slightly less than 1 billion Euro as regards the farming component alone; the turnover for finished product processing and transformation adds another 1.5 billion Euro the industry’s sales volume.
Domestic egg consumption amounts to 13.4 Kg per capita, just below the European average. This means that every Italian eats in total about 213 eggs a year, between direct and indirect consumption, bearing in mind that 45% of eggs are used as by-products in the food industry.
Production is guaranteed by over 41.6 million laying hens most of which are housed in 1,600 professionally-managed farms. More than half of this production is concentrated in northern Italy, with Lombardy in first position (27%), followed by Veneto (22%) and the Emilia Romagna region (21%). To the south of the country, Sicily stands as a point of reference, accounting for 5.3% of domestic production (source: Assoavi).
Caring for animal welfare
Consumers are increasingly attentive to ethical aspects and Community legislation has attempted to meet requests from EU consumers by investing in animal welfare. Laying hen farmers have played a key role in this regard.
Today, of the 41.6 million laying hens, 1.78% is reared free-range, 29.07% on a floor, 3.28% organically and 65.80% in enriched cages.
As already mentioned, battery cages are now a thing of the past and producers have invested millions of euro in equipment to align themselves to new regulations, a commitment which the market has acknowledged, although not always to a sufficient extent.