"Hens were hers in number three, And a cock of majesty. " Widow Tibbets by Wilhelm Busch
Austrian poultry farming is characterised by small, rural family businesses. These small units with an average of 20,000 poulards or 6,000 turkeys each are dwarfed by farms in other EU countries.
In general, Austrian poultry farmers are committed to cage-free poulard husbandry, and the spreading of chips or straw is a basic prerequisite for thoroughly healthy free-range poultry.
The intensive yellow skin colour of the birds is a result of the natural carotene content of maize, the fodder primarily used in Austria. Contrary to the widespread "white" poulards across Europe, Austrian producers offer a typically yellow breed, a sign of healthy nutrition and origin.
High production quality standards
In poultry farming, healthy fodder is a major contribution to high quality production and, in general, farmers refrain from the use of antibiotics or animal meal. Not only high meat quality is typical of domestic production, but also the Austrian hens' yellow skin colour mentioned above, which results from the high proportion of maize in the fodder. Stringent hygiene standards for poultry farming and support from specialised veterinarians are a guarantee for healthy livestock.
Catering to customer's preferences
Most popular among Austrians are the thrifty poulards with a live weight of 1.7 kg, ideal for grilling, roasting, or frying as a whole or in pieces. Some specialise in products that meet the demands of a very exclusive clientele. Slow-growing local breeds that are expensive to produce come with a certificate of guarantee of organic or GM-free farming and free-range poultry: a solid tip for gourmets.
Austrian poultry farming, a success story
In recent years, farmers have had to enlarge their stock of poulards due to increasing demand. A total of some 65.6 million birds is slaughtered in Austrian slaughterhouses every year. This amounts to an overall domestic production of 107,000 tons.
Broilers and chicken parts account for 81% of the total amount, i.e. more than 81,000 tons of the poultry meat produced. Turkeys amount for 18% of total production, and the rest comprises stewing chicken, ducks, and geese.
With a mere 1% of total poultry meat production in the EU, Austria ranks third from last on the list of producers. Therefore, farmers here focus on quality production in order to maintain a competitive edge.