free-range-chicken



This piece is written as a valid response to people who are complaining about the price of heritage chicken and to educate people who want to enter into the free-range chicken raising and breeding business. 

Background

On January 28, 2020, less than two months before the Philippine government declared a total lockdown on March 16 due to the Coronavirus pandemic, I purchased a total of 32 chicks of different breeds. This is to replace my flock destroyed by the eruption of the Taal Volcano. The costs of day-old chicks were: Rhode Island Red (RIR) mahogany (₱230), Black Australorp (₱160), Barred Plymouth Rock (₱140), Buff Orpington (₱180), and Light Sussex – Dominant CZ (₱170). I also bought 5 Beijing Fatty (You) for ₱280 each 1 week old.

Months later, the price of these chicks had slightly increased and the same seller where I purchased my chicks from sold the RIR mahogany for ₱250 while the cost of the rest of the breeds had increased by ₱10 to ₱15. 

During the pandemic

Since around May, the number of people who are entering into raising heritage breeds is continuously increasing and there is a big demand for chicks and breeders. People who have no idea about heritage breeds are complaining about the price being too expensive, telling sellers that “chickens are the same and the price should be the same with other chickens like native or broilers.” Although they are all chickens, they have different quality, origins, and categories. We are going to explain in detail below.

Why do heritage chicken breeds cost higher than other chickens?

There are a lot of factors and reasons why heritage chicken breeds are more expensive than native, broiler, and even hybrid chickens. We explain these reasons in a separate article here.

The heritage chicken breeds vs chicken meat

“Parepareho lang naman na manok yan, bakit ang mahal? Pag dumating yan sa palengke parehong manok lang yan.” (They are all the same chickens, why so expensive? If sold in the market these are the same). This is the exact reasoning of people who, either have no idea about what they are talking about or want the seller to lower the price to their advantage. 

buff orpington
©Fluppy-Orpingtons: Buff Orpington, a popular heritage chicken breed

Raising chicken is not all about meat. There are many reasons why people raise chickens regardless of types and breeds. If you want to raise chicken because your sole reason is to eat their meat, you can do so but consider other reasons:

  • As pets
  • Cockfighting (gamefowls)
  • Breeding and research business
  • Hatchery business
  • Egg production

If we talk about meat, there are also classifications of chicken meat that’s why we should not say that all chicken meats are the same:

  • 45-days broiler meat – low cost
  • Native chicken meat – moderate cost
  • Free-range organic chicken meat – high cost

See? Heritage chicken breeds are not included in the list above. Most organic chickens are hybrids like SASSO, Kabir, Dominant CZ, and Hubbard because they are developed as fast-growing free-range colored broilers that can be slaughtered in 80 to 110 days. 



As for heritage chicken breeds like RIR, BA, BPR, Sussex, and Orpingtons, are not ready for the market yet. Why buy an expensive heritage chick and slaughter it later when you can buy a less expensive hybrid? People are buying expensive heritage breeds because they want to breed and sell for the same price or higher and not to slaughter. In short, the business model for heritage breeds is totally different from those of other chickens for meat.

Why does free-range organic chicken cost higher than the 45-days broiler?

There are several reasons why white broilers are cheaper compared to free-range organic chickens. First, they need only at least 32 days to raise. They also need a less-complex diet and lesser care. This is the reason why animal rights groups are against large-scale poultry productions. They always have poor health.

Organic chickens, on the other hand, need a longer time to raise. They need more food and a complex diet. They need no antibiotics so the owner needs to think about other ways to maintain their health naturally.

free-range-chicken
© Gregg Yan

Another big reason why they are expensive in the market. Organic chicken meat is considered premium. When we say premium, they are sold to hotels, specialty restaurants, supermarkets like SM, Rustan’s, Robinsons, etc. As of this writing, the price of organic chicken in the Philippines is from ₱315 to ₱450 per kilogram with others reportedly selling up to ₱1,000 per kilo according to The Poultry Site. The 45-days broiler chicken meat on the other hand ranges from ₱120 to ₱135 depending on the market condition, while the native chicken costs around ₱200 to ₱250 per kilo.

So why heritage chicken prices will not drop during and after the pandemic and will stay for a long time?

Let’s take a look first at the organic chicken producers and their meat. Pamora Farms has been raising organic chicken in their Abra Farm since 2001 and its business is only getting bigger and bigger. We have no source of their specific price but it is believed that since 2001, the price of their meat had been increasing over time as well. As mentioned, they are raising SASSO for meat.

An organic chicken from Pamora Farm
An organic chicken from Pamora Farm. Image credit

The heritage breeds on the other hand have a different business model. People are raising heritage breeds not for meat but for business. Heritage breeds have been in the Philippines since decades ago but we still have a limited supply.

During the pandemic, the supply hit the lowest as many people resorted to raising chickens in their backyard. During this time, many chickens will die as well because of many inexperienced owners so the supply will suffer more. After this pandemic and when everything is back to normal, there might be a temporary surge of supply when people sell their chickens and go back to work. But after this temporary surge of supply, it is expected that the situation will be back to normal as well and the price will still be the same when the supply becomes stable. Still, the price of heritage chicken will not go down and will always be higher than the price of organic hybrid chickens.

Final words

If you want to raise chicken and you think heritage breeds are expensive, raise something else. But if you want to raise a heritage breed and your purpose is to sell chicks someday, go for it. Don’t convince the seller to sell his heritage chicken to you for a cheap price if your plan is to sell chicks someday for a higher price. That is not a good way to do a breeding business. Quality comes with the price.  If you want to raise chicken for meat, don’t insist on buying a heritage chicken.


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