Hubbard’s Premium product range tailored to all diverse market needs

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Interview with Bruno Briand, Hubbard Business Director EMEA

In 2021 Hubbard celebrates its 100th anniversary. It started with the selection of conventional breeding stock, but nowadays the Premium product range for slow(er)-growing markets also takes an important place. Bruno Briand, Hubbard Business Director EMEA, explains more about this.

How long has Hubbard been selecting slower growing broiler breeds? Can you please explain for our readers the story regarding your involvement in this facet of our industry?

“Hubbard has the longest history of all major primary breeders in this market as we have been involved in the selection and marketing of slower growing, Premium, breeds for about 55 years. It all started with the selection of breeds for the traditional Label Rouge market in France. Later, other markets in Europe, Asia and Latin America followed.

For Hubbard, the selection and sale of our Premium products is an integral part of our business and we are committed to keeping up with the latest trends. Therefore, we stay very close to the market to understand what the changing market requirements are.”

Currently animal welfare and meat quality are key market issues today – what do you consider will be the issues the broiler industry will face in the future?

“In the past, the focus was mostly on tradition, taste, and texture of the meat and in fact to stay as close as possible to ‘grandmother’s chicken’. During the last 25 years, the aspect of animal welfare has become increasingly important due to increased pressure from NGOs and consumers. Animal and human health was added later as a point of attention.

On top of animal welfare, and animal and human health, meat quality is another topic which has been added to the criteria more recently. Something we have been taking into account in our breeding program since the beginning.

The production of broiler meat is the most efficient compared to other meats. When switching from conventional broilers to slow(er)-growing chickens you lose some of this efficiency, but it remains very competitive against other meats. Nevertheless, carbon footprint is currently an important item for consumers and producers, of which feed consumption is the most important factor. That is why Hubbard has invested heavily in the most modern selection techniques in the R&D of our Premium products in recent years. One of these is Lifetime Feed Conversion Ratio (LFCR) for which feeding stations are used to better measure the feed efficiency of all our slower-growing lines over a longer period of time and to take into account the effect of the interaction between the animals in larger groups. This has already led to better feed conversions for all our Premium breeds in the field. Since feed is the largest cost item, this also benefits the affordability of slower-growing chicks and makes it available to a wider group of consumers.”

What is the current trend regarding the slower-growing concept in Europe and elsewhere in the world?

“The difference in growth speed with conventional broilers continues to increase slightly every year because of the ongoing selection for efficiency and therefore provides more room for new developments in the market and new breeds. In the past we have already seen the development of newer concepts, such as 56-day free range or extensive indoor. And also concepts that were similar but without or with a lower minimum age, such as RSPCA Assured Indoor in the UK and Chicken of Tomorrow in the Netherlands.

At this moment, the European Chicken Commitment (ECC) is gaining ground in Europe. Many retailers, food service companies, and even producers have committed to it. In principle they should implement it latest in 2026, but we can see several companies making the decision to do this much earlier. The ECC offers the possibility to fill the gap between the existing concepts and conventional broilers with a slightly more efficient way of production. This must be done using ECC approved breeds.

A similar development is underway in the US, but it is not yet entirely clear how this will be implemented. In the rest of the world, the pressure from NGOs to use slower growing breeds is virtually non-existent. But in some countries the production of traditional type of chickens is growing. In addition, the largest export countries, Thailand and Brazil are closely following the developments in Europe. If there is a demand to produce ECC chicken, they will undoubtedly do so.”

Which slower-growing strains are Hubbard offering and what are the performance figures for these strains?

“It is very difficult to answer this question as Hubbard offers a large range of Premium breeder females and males for markets ranging from dual purpose, organic, Label Rouge, 81-day free range, 56-day free range, certified indoor, and the ‘Better/European Chicken Commitment’ in North America and Europe.

In summary we can say that we have 6 different PS females and 3 categories of PS males to offer the best solution to all different markets.

  • The Premium PS females are the JA57, JA57Ki, P6N, JA87, REDBRO M and REDBRO. They are all very prolific and can be kept to an older age.
  • The PS males can be divided in slow growth (Label Rouge type), intermediate growth and conventional (white feathered) PS males.

Depending on the desired feather colour, growth rate, and conformation, the choice of the PS female and male is made. Therefore, it is best to contact the representative of Hubbard to discuss the best solution and performances. Of course, more information can also be found on our website.

I would like to emphasise that the latest addition to the Premium Product Range, the Hubbard REDBRO, has been developed with the ‘ECC’-type market in mind. It gives the best balance in terms of animal welfare, environment, and economics of any commercially available slower-growing breed by filling the gap between Hubbard JA787 chickens and conventional broilers.

Without being complacent I would like to conclude by saying that Hubbard is the worldwide choice for speciality markets and offers products with colour differentiation, slow(er)-growth, excellent robustness, and good conformation. We are ready for today and the future!”

For further information, please contact your regional sales representative or contact us at: communication@hubbardbreeders.com.