For many Filipinos, it is no longer just about eating the chicken but how healthy the chicken is. How humanely was the poultry treated? Has the chicken been allowed to grow as naturally and organically as possible and not passed through a 45-day pressure cooker lifecycle as in the broiler production industry? Free range chicken farming in the Philippines is not just about the ethical aspect but research has consistently proved that free range chickens are generally healthier and more nutritious than those produced in a caged or factory environment.
The chicken is allowed to grow as naturally as possible and express all its natural behaviours and the result is always happy chooks that produce healthy and sweet tasting poultry products. It is a market that is currently fairly well developed in countries such as Australia, the US, the UK and Germany amongst others. In the Philippines, eating free range or organic poultry products is a trend that is catching up fast.
The main characteristic of free range chicken farming in the Philippines and elsewhere is that the chickens are allowed lots of access to an outdoor range. They are not confined inside overcrowded poultry houses where each chicken barely has a space a sized of an A4 paper. The chickens are allowed lots of space and exposure to the pasture where they can feed on the grass, legumes, grubs and many other natural sources of chicken food.
Because they spend lots of time in the outdoors and exposed to the sunshine, the chickens, invariably, produce products that are of a higher nutritional quality. The free range poultry products generally have more muscle and less fat, less cholesterol, more essential amino acids , more vitamins A, D and E and many other benefits. Research has indicated that free range poultry products generally contain as much as three times of these nutrient products compared to poultry products from caged birds.
There are various other aspects of free range and organic poultry products that make them particularly attractive to Filipino poultry farmers. For example, many farmers adopt a chemical-free stance when it comes to free range poultry production. Antibiotic usage is severely restricted and used only when it is absolutely necessary. You do not have to worry about the use of growth hormones and other growth stimulants. The chickens are allowed to grow as naturally as possible in order to assure you of the healthy poultry products that you are looking for.
Stocking density in the free range poultry farming is also generally quite low. While it is possible a stocking density of up to 36,000 chickens per hectare in a commercial broiler operation in the Philippines, a model free range poultry stocking ratio in the Philippines is generally 1500 birds per hectare even though some farmers generally go a little higher while others also maintain lower stocking density in order to provide the chickens with as much space as possible.
Free range meat is generally a preferred product for persons with various diet issues thanks to the health and quality of the meat. For the same reason, it generally fetches slightly higher pricing than the conventional broiler meat.
As a delicacy, free range meat is much preferred in the Philippines because it is has a sweeter taste compared to the conventional broiler meat. Many Filipinos contend that free range meat tastes like real chicken!
With free range poultry products increasingly gaining a solid following in the country, this is the right time to venture into this ethical form of poultry farming so that you can provide Filipino buyers with a highly nutritious and healthy source of proteins.
Success in free range poultry production begins with the right selection of breeds or hybrid chickens that you are going to raise in the free range environment. You must also provide adequate range or pasture where the chickens will graze. However, pasture enough may not be sufficient to meet your free range poultry production needs. In many instances, you will need to supplement their feeding with formulated feeds, especially if they are egg laying birds in order to enable you obtain the bird’s genetic potential. The most important aspect is that the birds must be provided with reasonable access to the outdoors for at least 8 hours everyday and you must take measures to minimize indiscriminate use of antibiotics. Fence off the pasture area and ensure that the chickens have been adequately protected from predators.
Unlike in the commercial broiler production environment, you do not need much money in order to venture into free range poultry production. You can even start small and master the right animal husbandry techniques that will help you venture into commercial free range poultry production operation.