Today's Irish poultry industry is a testament to the pioneers, who in the mid 1960's, began to produce chicken, turkey and duck on a commercial scale to satisfy the then growing appetite for a more affordable protein meat source. The majority of these family owned companies were located in close proximity to the border with the North of Ireland giving them access to the main ports of Dublin, Belfast and Warrenpoint for sourcing much of their feed raw materials.
As the industry expanded, so too did the need for new purpose built housing. This challenge was met by contracting both egg and growing/finishing production to local farmers. These local producers invested in mainly timber farmed buildings which housed on average, 5000 birds with a growing cycle of an average of 10 weeks. With the passage of time, the level of integration increased between processor, hatching and growing.
Todays, the industry is one of the most modern in the world, with state of the art housing and processing facilities. Ireland has one of the highest per capita white meat consumption rates in Europe, this reflects consumers preference for flexible and affordable sources of meat protein which has helped underpin industry expansion over the last 15 years. It is fully integrated allowing for full traceability and control to ensure that welfare, food safety and quality can be optimised and achieved on a continuous basis.
Today's poultry producers are almost all owner managers, with their units based within their family farm unit. Producers have incorporated this enterprise into their farms to ensure an excellent opportunity to sustain the viability of food production.
There are 418 poultry sites in Ireland. Chicken production is the most important poultry species that is produced in Ireland, with around three quarters of Bord Bia poultry sites linked to this category. Hatcheries that are approved by Bord Bia deliver the highest quality day-olds to the industry. Chicken production is historically concentrated towards the North West of the country as producers responded to smaller farm holdings by switching farm enterprises to become more profitable and sustainable. There is also large number of poultry sites where poultry processors are based such as Cork and the surrounding hinterland.
Irish poultry production has increased significantly over the past number of years in response to evolving consumer behaviour. For 2020, poultry production is expected to reach record levels at 110 million head, with chicken accounting for 9 out of every 10 processed in Ireland. The Irish poultry industry benefits from being well consolidated, with just three key meat export plants located strategically where the main concentration of producers are positioned.