Chicken Meat

Program Overview

Overview

Through focused R&D the Rural Industries R&D Corporation Chicken Meat Program supports increased sustainability and profitability in the chicken meat industry.

The program is funded by statutory levies paid by industry participants. This levy revenue is matched by RIRDC at up to 0.5 per cent of gross value of production (GVP). RIRDC is an essential participant in the second term Poultry CRC and invests in the CRC's R&D activities and jointly invests in R&D with the CRC. The Chicken Meat Program also collaborates with other rural R&D corporations.

Research investments are guided by the Chicken Meat R&D Advisory Committee, following the R&D Plan for the Chicken Meat Program 2014-2019.

Chicken meat production in Australia is dominated by a small number of quite large, vertically integrated, privately owned enterprises. These companies typically own hatcheries, feed mills, breeding farms and processing plants, in the case of two such companies, across a number of states. They usually contract out the growing of their meat chickens to independent contract chicken growers, of which there are approximately 800 nationally.

Each of the major companies operating in the industry invests significant funds into in-house R&D, particularly in the areas of product development, marketing and market development, processing technologies, quality control procedures, distribution and packaging.

The Australian chicken meat industry is relatively mature, and has a history of rapid adoption of new technology. This has resulted allowed the industry to achieve significant productivity improvements over the past fifty years.

Genetic stocks, processing and housing technology is largely imported, and this situation is likely to continue into the future. There has been significant investment by growers in recent years in upgraded housing systems.

Feeding, health management and bird husbandry programs usually require significant adaptation to suit Australian conditions, and this needs to be supported by R&D to optimise flock performance, efficiency and industry productivity. Continued productivity improvements will be required over the coming five years if chicken meat is to retain its favourable positioning as the most affordable meat, which in turn will drive its increasing popularity with consumers.

Opportunities for continued productivity enhancements, through the adoption of improved technology on-farm (in areas such as bird health and welfare, husbandry, nutrition and feed management) and elsewhere are key components of the RIRDC program.

The chicken meat industry has many opportunities to capitalise upon opportunities associated with chicken meat's modest environmental footprint relative to alternative animal protein sources, and also to further reduce its environmental impacts and emissions.

National tunnel ventilation workshops - May 2014

The RIRDC Chicken Meat Program sponsored a second series of workshops for chicken growers  in May 2014 on managing  ventilation during cold weather. 

Five workshops were held across New South Wales and Queensland, covering ventilation in a range of housing types, including on free range farms. 

The workshops were  conducted by Mike Czarick (Extension Engineer) and Brian Fairchild (Extension Poultry Scientist), from the University of Georgia. 

Participants are invited to access the presentations and interactive spreadsheets from the workshop below.

New South Wales Tunnel Ventilation:

Introduction to ventilation
Ventilating based on house relative humidity 
Moisture control
Circulation and exhaust fan operation 
House temperature and performance
Air quality and bird health
Moisture, litter, performance 

Queensland Free Range Ventilation: 

Introduction  
Moisture control
Ventilating based on house relative humidity 
House temperature and performance
Air quality and bird health
Moisture, litter, performance 

Queensland Tunnel Ventilation: 

Introduction
Moisture control
Ventilating based on house relative humidity   
House temperature and performance
Air quality and bird health
Drinker management  

Spreadsheet: Minimum Ventilation for Poultry House Moisture Management (NOTEThe spreadsheet used in the workshops for calculating Minimum Ventilation for Poultry House Moisture Management can be accessed in the file “australia.zip”. The file folder is compressed so it will have to be uncompressed before you can access the files. To download the zip file, click on the link above, and then open the folder titled "australia”. This folder contains two files. Before opening the “min vent and poultry house tightness calculator - metric (v1.0 beta)” file you must first open the “Poultrypschfunctions” file.  When a window pops up asking about macros, select “enable macros”. Then open the "min vent and poultry house tightness - metric (v1.0 beta)" calculator. If it is not done in this order the minimum ventilation spreadsheet will not work.)

Program Aim & Deliverables

Program Aim

Stimulate and promote R&D that will deliver a productive and sustainable Australian chicken meat industry that provides quality wholesome food to the nation. 

Deliverables in 2014-15

  • Review measures that can be taken which reduce biosecurity risks posed by wild birds to meat chickens.
  • Determine the viability of a net energy system of feed formulation for meat chickens.
  • Optimise whole grain feeding strategies for improved performance of meat chicken production. 
  • Evaluate a new technology for diagnosing important poultry disease agents.
  • Invest to resolve the identity of the key factors that impact on sorghum starch digestibility for meat chickens.



Annual Target or Output

  • A critical review will be prepared for the industry which will assist in industry planning measures that minimise potential spill-overs of avian influenza (and other avian diseases) from wild birds to commercial flocks.
  • Validation of laboratory-based net energy prediction equations in feeding evaluations, including at a commercial level, to inform feed formulation on a net energy basis. 
  • Development of more effective whole grain feeding strategies, after gaining a better appreciation of how whole grain feeding drives improvements in efficiency of feed conversion and energy utilisation. 


  • Expansion of the suite of low-cost, sensitive and specific tests for the detection of key poultry pathogens, thereby facilitating early intervention. 
  • Definition of the role of at least one key nutritional factor that may be responsible for reducing sorghum starch digestibility, thereby contributing to the inconsistent or sub-optimal performance of flocks on sorghum-based broiler diets. 

R&D Plan

The Rural Industries R&D Corporation has managed the Chicken Meat R&D Program on behalf of industry since 1995 and the current R&D Plan is the industry's fourth Five Year R&D Plan with RIRDC.

The major themes driving the Five Year Plan include:

  • Rebuilding the industry's human and institutional research capacity.
  • The imperative for increased productivity and efficiency.
  • Understanding, adapting to and profiting from climate change.
  • Collaboration and working toward the National Poultry RD&E strategy.
  • Recognition that food safety is imperative to ensure ongoing consumer confidence.
  • Acknowledgement that bird welfare is a legitimate community concern that warrants research.
  • Understanding that certain types of market research are a valid use of industry R&D resources.

The Five Year Plan is consistent with RIRDC's ongoing support for the Australian Poultry Cooperative Research Centre.


Key contacts and links

RIRDC Research Manager

Dr Vivien Kite
Ph: 02 9929 4077
Fax: 02 9925 0627
Email: vivien.kite@chicken.org.au


RIRDC Program Coordinator

Margie Heath
Ph: 02 6271 4145
Email: margaret.heath@rirdc.gov.au

Australian Chicken Meat Federation

The Australian Chicken Meat Federation (ACMF) is the peak body for the chicken meat industry.
Web: www.chicken.org.au
Phone: 02 9929 4077
Email: acmf@chicken.org.au

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RIRDC Projects and Results

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Current projects

All of RIRDC's current chicken meat research projects appear here. Click on a project name for more information about that project.

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All chicken meat research projects completed by RIRDC appear here. Click on a project name for more information about that project.

Completed projects
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