SLU news

Bachelor thesis on organic chicken production

Published: 15 August 2014

Although there is a high demand for organic chicken, the production increases very slowly. Sofia Wilhelmsson, SLU, has written a thesis that can provide some answers to why.

There are several reasons why organic chicken production in Sweden is small. The main reasons are lack of slow-growing strains, high production costs and economic uncertainty.

Fast-growing strains do not fit in organic production
Although the regulations at EU level imply use of slow-growing strains in organic production, rapidly growing strains are used because of their effectiveness. Consumption of semi-manufactured foods increases, and causes the market for big carcasses to grow.

Genetic selection for fast growth has caused inactivity, unbalanced bodies, disease and high mortality of broilers. In combination with regulations regarding daily growth rate and age at slaughter, the use of broilers in organic production can be questioned.

Higher mortality among fast-growing chickens
Slow-growing strains are well adapted to and benefits from extensive conditions, while fast-growing strains can not take advantage of the free range as well as the slow-growing.

Fast-growing chickens have significantly higher mortality in organic production than the slow-growing. Meat quality is mainly affected by genotype, meat maturation, sex and production systems. Meat from slow-growing strains contains more protein and half the amount of intramuscular fat compared to meat from fast-growing strains.

Chicken meat has previously been valued as a cheap source of protein, but as consumers more and more appreciate improved animal welfare and meat quality, the market for organically produced chicken increases.