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Businessexcellence ACHIEVING





Chicken is a valuable and but its production req

Ty d s t r o o m F r e s h F a r m C h i c k e n


fresh approach

d popular source of protein; quires a well-oiled machine, as Alan Swaby discovers


et’s start with a guessing game: how many chickens do you think are consumed in your country every week? Whether your guess is accurate or not, the numbers will certainly be enormous and probably far greater than you imagined. Take South Africa, for example, where the top two largest chicken producers alone account for eight million birds a week. The fourth largest in the country is Tydstroom Fresh Farm Chicken, whose output from its Durbanville plant to the north of Cape Town is around 800,000 birds a week.

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Rackstore Technologies Rackstore Technologies is a professional company specializing






equipment, providing expertise from planning to execution. We have local and international experience, often acting as consultants in developing future projects. Rackstore Technologies was approached by Tydstroom Poultry Farm to assist and develop a more efficient and productive storage system in their various freezer facilities, with great success.

In 1995, Tydstroom—a division of Pioneer Foods, South Africa’s second largest food producing company—bought a small private abattoir handling 160,000 chickens a week. Three years later, a second plant half the size was bought and from this base, Tydstroom has quadrupled the business to what it is today. By focusing on the Western and Eastern Cape Provinces, Tydstroom has established itself as a big player in a relatively small game; but from the beginning of February, it has taken a step towards becoming a truly national supplier by taking over a 200,000 bird a week plant in Johannesburg, serving the country’s largest region. “We are very excited about this acquisition,” says Dawid Koen, general manager of Tydstroom. “The plant has considerable potential for improvement and we consider that with a little help from new management and a modest

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amount of investment, throughput will be 50 per cent higher within six months.” There is another, commercial reason why the Johannesburg plant is an attractive proposition. For historical reasons, most of the chicken processors there produce frozen meat, and Tydstroom’s research has shown there is an unsatisfied demand for fresh chicken. “Killing birds for the frozen market,” explains Koen, “is a cheaper, more forgiving way of working. The birds don’t have to be handled with the same degree of care associated with fresh produce—a process which requires more people and far stricter controls on chilling carcasses.” Tydstroom’s current strategy, therefore, is to concentrate on fresh produce, with only 40 per cent being frozen. There is the usual range of whole birds, pre-packed and individual portions. Less usual and currently exclusive to Tydstroom is the sale of a whole bird which has been de-boned —making it an ideal ingredient for the BBQ. With chicken representing the cheapest form of meat protein available to a population of 48

million—comprising large numbers of people with a low disposable income—cost is a critical factor. Unsurprisingly, then, local suppliers have to do all they can to compete with chicken meat imported from Brazil, at 30 per cent cheaper than local prices. “The Brazilian market,” says Koen, “is enormous compared to ours but there is a very favourable fit between the two countries. In Brazil, consumers like white meat, while South Africans prefer dark meat. Brazilian producers get top money for the breast and are content to dispose of the unwanted drumsticks and thighs at knock-down prices.” Like all major players, Tydstroom is a vertically integrated business. It has the South African rights for a breed of bird with the most un-colourful of names: Cobb Avian 48. It’s a breed that does well in South African conditions and achieves the desired killing weight of 1.8kg in 34 days, after which its rate of growth falls away. Avian 48 is also a prolific egg producer, giving Tydstroom all the chicks it needs to feed the machine: Tydstroom hatches chicks which are then reared by specialist subcontractors until the birds are

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“At the managerial level, we offer apprenticeships to young men and women studying animal sciences” ready for slaughter just over one month later. Even more considerable than the challenge of cheap imports from Brazil is maintaining the health of the birds. All rearing premises are electrically ring fenced to keep out wildlife that may carry disease; while all human visitors must go through a thorough process of showering and changing into sterile clothes before they ever get anywhere near the birds. Tydstroom is also trying to eliminate contamination from airborne diseases by shading bird houses with trees which filter out bacteria. Last year 6,000 trees were planted and another 6,000 are going in this year.

Incoming vehicles are sprayed and the parent birds tested every week to ensure they haven’t acquired any illnesses. Inside the abattoirs themselves, the risk of cross contamination is controlled by strict hygiene standards coupled with all processing work being carried out at temperatures of zero degrees. Tydstroom is also proud of the development work it does with its employees. “We currently have 1,300 staff,” says Koen, “nine hundred of whom are female. We have full time clinical sisters to look after their health concerns and welfare officers to help with any other problems that may

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be bothering them. We constantly work to improve their skills with various training programmes and incentives. And at the managerial level, we offer apprenticeships to young men and women studying animal sciences.� Traditionally, chicken processing has been a water intensive business, requiring 15 litres of water for every bird killed. Tydstroom has already got that figure down to under 13 litres, and new plants will have recycling systems that reduce consumption to a target 10.5 litres. Similarly, everything consuming electricity is equipped with proximity switches to cut consumption when not in use. However, with this quantity of birds being processed on a weekly basis, there is very little time when the plant is not busy—good news for Tydstroom, and for its customers, whose insatiable appetite for chicken shows no signs of abating.


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