Poultry Day
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The poultry industry in the UAE is undergoing a significant transformation, driven by changes in consumption patterns as well as the necessity to align with sustainability standards. From technological integration to product diversification, poultry producers are at the forefront of innovation, ensuring their competitiveness in the marketplace.

One key area of innovation is in the production processes. Poultry manufacturers are embracing various technologies to transform the industry from farm to fork as well as reduce their environmental impact. This includes automated feeding systems, IoT for health monitoring, sensors for tracking, advanced ventilation systems, robotics in poultry processing and handling, and enhanced waste management techniques. These innovations aim to ramp up production capacity, aligning with the UAE’s food security objectives, while simultaneously reducing resource usage and emissions.

Furthermore, there is a rising consumer demand for cage-free, non-GMO, antibiotic- and hormone-free, and organic chicken and eggs. This trend is driving poultry companies to invest in measures to enhance animal welfare and adopt eco-friendly farming practices.

One of the UAE’s leading poultry manufacturers, Al Ghurair Foods – producing eggs under its flagship brand Jenan – has evolved its management and feeding practices in line with sustainability and animal welfare goals.

Tech optimises animal welfare

“By mixing high-quality, organic trace minerals into our poultry feed and utilising the latest feed technology, we have reduced the amount of maize, soya, and canola in the feed for our chickens,” says Andrew Gibson, Senior Vice President for Poultry at Al Ghurair Foods. “This approach not only supports the health of our poultry but also produces nutritious, sustainable Jenan eggs while reducing our dependence on imported products,” he says.

Andrew Gibson, Senior Vice President for Poultry at Al Ghurair Foods

When it comes to transitioning to tech-powered farming, remote sensing, automation, and big data are increasingly becoming key in reshaping the operational landscape of the poultry sector.

“Technology has come a long away in poultry and at Al Ghurair Foods, we are already collecting significant amounts of data on production, feed, weather, and how it affects our flocks to help optimise overall performance and quality of our products,” points out Gibson.

Meanwhile, Dubai-based Al Rawdah Farm is moving towards AI implementation to eliminate human contact in certain operations. “Al Rawdah has been a zero waste company for many years now,” says Jeanette Kristensen, GM, Emirates National Food Company, the producer of Al Rawdah.

“The adoption of advanced technologies such as precision farming, automated production systems, and data analytics is likely to accelerate the poultry industry. These technologies will improve efficiency, optimise resource utilisation, and enhance animal welfare, ultimately leading to higher productivity and profitability,” Kristensen explains.

Al Ain Farms Poultry Farm has greatly boosted its operational capacity over the last couple of years, introducing numerous practices and technologies to improve efficiency, minimise environmental impact, and enhance animal welfare. “We are using only high-quality feed, containing ingredients that promote the health of the birds without using any antibiotics or hormones whatsoever,” says Hassan Safi, Chief Executive Officer at Al Ain Farms.

Hassan Safi, Chief Executive Officer at Al Ain Farms

Al Ain Farms has also implemented an air purification technique that guarantees adequate space for each bird and enhances animal welfare.

“Moreover, we have been securing hatching eggs from only local breeders, increasing hatchery capacities, and work with small production farms, which helps advance self-sufficiency in poultry production in the UAE,” Safi explains.

Arabian Farms has climate-controlled bird housing, which can optimise temperature, humidity, and ventilation to create ideal conditions for the birds’ comfort and growth.

Tareq Mahmoud Abed Sallam, CEO – Holding, Arabian Farms

“Our farms have implemented various technologies such as data sensors, data analytics control units, alarm system and automations down the line to monitor, identify and address issues promptly,” says Tareq Mahmoud Abed Sallam, CEO – Holding, Arabian Farms.

Another Dubai-based poultry farm, Al Jazira has implemented a host of innovative systems in its production line, including high-speed egg collection and packing machines to enhance efficiency in egg handling while maintaining product quality and freshness.

The poultry industry in the UAE is keen on enhancing sustainability throughout the supply chain. This involves reducing energy consumption at the farms, optimising transportation logistics, and exploring alternative packaging solutions to minimise waste.

Al Jazira Poultry Farm has taken a series of initiatives to align its production processes with the UAE’s sustainability goals.

“We reuse water for cooling poultry sheds, utilise waste water for plantation purposes, and use advanced and high quality insulation materials in the construction of poultry buildings, which immensely help reduce cooling costs,” says a spokesperson from Al Jazira, adding, “When it comes to sustainability, implementation of various measures not only contributes to environmental objectives but also aids in cost reduction.”

Sectoral growth

In the midst of ongoing market transformations, the demand for poultry has remained strong. Increased awareness about the health benefits of lean meat, particularly chicken, and eggs, has driven a notable uptick in global demand for poultry products.

The global poultry market is projected to grow from $352.80 billion (Dh1,295.65 billion) in 2022 to $482.33 billion in 2027 at a rate of 6.5 per cent, according to Research and Markets analysis. The sector is then expected to grow at a rate of 6.1 per cent from 2027 and reach $647.96 billion in 2032.

Following global trends, the poultry industry in the UAE has also maintained its resilience, prompting producers to not only increase production but also innovate and adapt to changing consumer preferences.

Currently, the country produces 50,740 metric tons of poultry a year, which is expected to rise to 54,770 metric tons by 2026, with an average annual growth rate of 1.3 per cent, according to ReportLinker Consultancy.

Nevertheless, similar to any industry, the poultry sector faces its own set of challenges, underscoring the need to embrace strategic approaches to address these obstacles and capitalise on opportunities for future success. Among these challenges, the management of sudden outbreaks and disease control stands out as a key concern for poultry brands.

Biosecurity in poultry production

The poultry industry prioritises farm protection from Avian influenza, with producers implementing various biosecurity measures to safeguard their flocks.

“Our farm has increased its biosecurity to unprecedented levels to protect our flock from this endemic disease,” says Gibson from Al Ghurair Foods. “Access to the farm is tightly controlled, and restricted only to essential personnel who must adhere to a strict protocol of showering before entering and upon leaving. This rigorous approach demonstrates our unwavering commitment to keeping our poultry healthy and secure so our business can continue to thrive,” he explains.

Arabian Farms has also implemented strict biosecurity protocols and disease surveillance programmes, helping it prevent disease outbreaks, says Abed Sallam. Furthermore, he highlights the additional challenges impacting the sector presented by adverse climate conditions, variable feed availability, and rising costs.

“Addressing tailored diets helps lower the feed costs. At Arabian Farms, we have successfully invested in climate-controlled houses with automated lines and monitoring systems, which help us optimise the final costs,” says Abed Sallam.

Challenges to overcome

Safi from Al Ain Farms notes that geopolitical conditions also weigh heavily on the poultry sector, impacting global economic activities, triggering inflation and food security concerns, driving supply chain barriers, and causing gaps in environmental and agricultural conditions.

“Al Ain Farms is working on improving the efficiency of its operations as well as securing contracts with suppliers to maintain quality of raw materials and offset rising costs. At the same time, we are constantly researching to innovate and develop new solutions while expanding our geographical footprints,” says Safi.

Jeanette Kristensen, GM, Emirates National Food Company

Kristensen underscores a critical issue in the UAE’s poultry sector: the surge in fresh chicken imports from other countries has significantly impacted poultry farming in the UAE.

“The industry has fought for several years for a level playing field for our businesses, but we still have some obstacles to overcome. Another challenge for the industry is the extreme dependency on frozen chicken in the country. Of the total chicken consumption in the UAE, 85 per cent is sold as frozen while only 15 per cent is sold as fresh chicken,” she says, adding, “The industry would like to see some regulations to strengthen local production of fresh chicken.”

Product innovation — the way forward

Poultry brands in the UAE have started placing a strong emphasis on both new product development and the expansion of the existing product portfolio. This strategic approach helps businesses capture new market segments and foster resilience against market fluctuations.

Over the last couple of years, Al Ain Farms has launched a range of organic and free-range eggs, extended its portfolio in standard eggs and portions, as well as changed the way it packs its chicken portions. “Using a new technology in packaging, we ensure that food stays fresh longer without adding any chemical preservatives. We have also launched a value-added range of marinated chicken called Cook in the Bag, ideal for people who do not have time for or are not good at cooking,” says Safi.

Industry experts are optimistic about the future growth potential of the poultry sector in the UAE. They anticipate strong expansion due to increasing demand for quality products grown locally.

“We see an increase in consumer trust in locally produced fresh products as consumers are very keen to know where their food comes from. We expect that the trend of consuming natural and fresh, locally-made chicken and eggs will grow further in the next few years,” says Safi. ■