Chicken, eggs affordable protein sources
Beaven Dhliwayo Features Writer
Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? It is a classic question. But, for leaders of African countries, international charity organisations and large development funds that try to address the global hunger problem, both chicken and eggs may provide a credible answer.
Research is showing that chicken eggs and meat are the cheapest sources of quality protein and are badly needed by millions of low-income people in Africa.
On a continent where malnutrition and under-nutrition are still serious challenges, there is need to reverse this trend by providing affordable poultry products to every household.
Today, 333 million people, representing more than a quarter of Africa’s population, are classified as severely food-insecure.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, under-nutrition is a critical issue for many of the world’s poorer countries, and more than a third of African and South Asian children are stunted.
The UN estimates that nearly 151 million children under five years of age worldwide were still undersized in 2017.
Low-quality food is seen as one of the major contributors to poor growth both in the womb and during the vulnerable first years of life.
In Zimbabwe, widespread poverty, HIV/AIDS, limited employment opportunities, liquidity challenges, recurrent climate-induced shocks and economic instability all contribute to limiting adequate access to food.
Low-productivity agricultural practices and lack of access to markets also affected the food security of most rural Zimbabweans, whose livelihoods depend on their own production.
A study published recently by the FAO suggests that eggs and meat can play a key role in fighting hunger and malnutrition in poor countries. Co-authors of the study, Tim Lambert, International Egg Commission chairman, and Dr Saul Morris of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition believe that chicken eggs and meat offer a practical and impactful opportunity to tackle problems related to under-nutrition.
Eggs are almost pure protein of very high quality. They also provide virtually the entire adequate intake for young children of vitamin B12 and choline. The essential fatty acid content of eggs may be especially important in pregnancy. Chicken eggs and meat are a highly popular food in many countries and can be produced at affordable prices.
This has led to a sharp increase in chicken consumption worldwide, making chicken the most commonly eaten meat across the world.
Birds currently account for 23 billion of the 30 billion land animals living on farms worldwide.
Researchers from the University of Leicester stated in a recent paper that broilers now outnumber all wild birds put together by three to one. It is the most numerous vertebrate species on land, with 23 billion alive at any one time.
Zimbabwe should not be left behind, and Government should partner private players to boost poultry production.
It is important to empower rural communities in the poultry business as it plays a crucial role in their livelihoods in most developing countries.
ZimAvian managing director Cyril Gunda said to boost poultry production among disadvantaged people in rural areas, they partnered with the Re-Imagine Rural Fund.
Established in 2014, ZimAvian is a poultry hatchery that provides day-old-chicks to the Zimbabwean market and beyond.
It produces broiler and layer day-old chicks using state-of-the-art equipment and strict biosecurity measures to ensure the highest quality product. Under the programme, Gunda said selected rural farmers will receive 500-point-of-lay pullets each, and will be supported with all the necessary inputs required to run a successful table egg enterprise.
The point-of-lay pullets were funded by Delta Philanthropies, and will be given to farmers in the form of a soft loan to be paid back over a period of two years.
ZimAvian will collect the eggs from farmers and sell them in competitive markets on their behalf.
“The programme kick-started in Seke and Goromonzi, and we hope to spread it to more areas of Africa as part of our commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility,” he said.
Such projects are crucial in the development of a strong poultry industry in the country as an excellent source of food supply and job creation. Gunda said healthy chicks were the starting point for good poultry performance.
Yet, any number of problems — some difficult to detect early on — can impact the quality of day-old chicks.
From the breeder’s farm to the hatchery and transportation to final farm reception, management practices have a real impact.
Optimised processes and preventive measures can give chicks the right start.
ZimAvian hatchery located in Ruwa is producing about 110 000 day-old chicks per week, a clear testimony that if such projects are supported across the country, including in rural communities, Zimbabwe will be able to feed its population.
At the hatchery, Gunda said attention to hatchery process is vital to avoid poor chick quality. Special care should be taken for long time storage, separating small eggs from bigger eggs by donor flock age, hatchery hygiene and transportation conditions.
Long storage reduces hatchability, impairing the animal’s future growth rate.
Separation of chicks coming from young and older breeder flocks will improve homogeneity (uniformity). According to Gunda, the industry is still faced with a number of challenges that need to be addressed so that the country can have more entrepreneurs that can help in addressing the country’s food security.
Chief among the challenges is access to funding, where most loans available at the banks are short-term and too expensive to be used in the poultry business.
This means many entrepreneurs, regardless of industry, are failing to grow their businesses to the next levels.
Unavailability of maize locally due to persistent drought is pushing feeds prices up, thereby eroding profit as the local market tend to resist price increases.
Water and electricity shortages remain critical, especially for the production of day-old chicks which have the potential to become a broiler chicken, layers or breeders.
Given this versatility, the quality of day -old chicks matters immensely to poultry businesses.
Additionally, logistics challenges to transport day-old chicks and even mature chickens across the region, especially in West Africa still remains a problem, according to Gunda.
With the growing Zimbabwean population, there is real need to address the growing necessity for cheap and easily obtained protein.
This is aimed at restoring dignity of mankind by ending hunger and malnutrition.
Similar initiatives are taking place all over Africa in the search of affordable and easy-to-implement solutions to the urgent hunger problem.
Policymakers, development partners and private partners should unite and examine the chicken and egg question from a new perspective.