The two largest integrated chicken companies are the family-owned Baiada Poultry and the publicly-listed Ingham’s Enterprises, and between them they supply approximately 70% of Australia’s meat chickens. Both companies are headquartered in NSW, with chicken production and processing operations throughout Australia’s states. The balance of the market is supplied by another four medium-sized, privately owned integrated companies, which each supply between approximately 3% and 9% of the national market. These companies are located in NSW (Cordina Chicken Farms), Victoria (Turosi Foods and Hazeldene’s) and Queensland (Golden Cockerel). A number of smaller processors make up the remaining 5-9% of production.
Rearing of the meat chickens, from day old chicks to the day of processing, is generally contracted out by the integrated chicken processing companies to contract chicken farmers. Approximately 700 chicken farmers produce about 80% of Australia ’s meat chickens under these contracts. These farms are generally owned by independent family farmers or corporate businesses.
Most commercial meat chicken farms are intensive, highly mechanised operations that occupy relatively small areas compared with other forms of farming.
Under 1% of birds are raised in organic systems, where the focus is on avoiding the use of synthetic chemicals such as synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fertilisers and antibiotics. Feed must be predominantly from certified organic ingredients and birds cannot be given antibiotics or routine vaccinations.
Many conventional and free range farms raise birds according to the standards of third party accreditation schemes, such as the RSPCA Approved Farming scheme and the Free Range Egg and Poultry Australia (FREPA) certification scheme.