Balticovo plans to increase the number of laying hens kept outside from cages

2016-10-25
Balticovo plans to increase the number of laying hens kept outside from cages

Balticovo plans to increase the number of laying hens kept outside from cages

The largest producer and exporter of eggs in the region Balticovo plans to gradually increase the number of laying hens kept in free range. Currently, approximately 2% of the entire egg market in Latvia are free-range or barn eggs. Despite that, the company sees an opportunity to increase exactly the sales volumes of cage free eggs in future, since Latvian consumers, just as in the wealthiest EU countries, with their purchasing capacity increasing, might be ready to pay slightly more and choose the so-called Category 1 and 2 eggs. Balticovo also plans to start selling biological or Category 0 eggs, which are not yet offered by large producers in Latvia.

In Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, which are domestic markets for Balticovo, over 90% of consumers chooses eggs laid in cages, which are significantly cheaper than eggs laid in cage free farms. According to the EU single egg code system, the first number of the code printed on these eggs is “3”. The range of Balticovo products includes barn eggs where the first number on egg is “2”. Likewise, the range of Balticovo products includes free-range eggs with the first digit in code is “1”. In future, it is planned to offer eggs produced by biologically grown hens, which are marked with “0” as the first number of the code labelling.  

Caged eggs are considered to be the safest for human consumption, health of laying hens is not a subject to non-controllable environmental factors. For example, for pharmaceutical needs, eggs from enriched cages are demanded, rather than cage free eggs, since they are cleaner and exclude any risks of infection, containment or presence of toxic elements. Hens kept in cages are not subject to intestinal infections or coccidiosis, since they do not contact with faeces in comparison with hens kept in cage free farming systems. Hence, no medications or anticoccidials are used for laying hens kept in cages during their life, which is highly important in many cases when we speak about the quality of eggs. Likewise, when using barn eggs for human diet, it is practically impossible to catch salmonellosis, since hens are vaccinated against this disease. 

Despite the fact that eggs laid in cages have a variety of advantages in terms of quality and purity of eggs, the company Balticovo sees the potential to increase the sales of barn and free-range eggs. This tendency has been long observed in the markets of the majority of EU countries, where consumers are ready to pay more for free-range eggs or even biological eggs.

In comparison with non-EU countries, where welfare conditions of hens are not regulated so strictly with legislation, Balticovo has introduced all new requirements regarding hens welfare accordingly to EU Directive for laying standards, which came in force in 2012 and includes providing hens with a greater area as stipulated by the EU. To meet new welfare requirements, the Balticovo invested over EUR 30M. This year company continues production development and plans to invest over EUR 800K in the construction of brooders for pullets and equipment.

The company also carries out work on improving the welfare of hens and safety control. Currently, regular health checks are conducted for hens; these checks can be divided into several levels: daily and clinical inspections of hens, as well as different tests to control the health condition of hens. “In this work, a great role is also played by the human factor — being able to precisely notice any changes in the health condition of hens, particularly taking into account the great number of hens to be inspected. Balticovo regularly works on improving the skills of its employees to reduce human factor risks. The company has the procedure for carrying out checks and multi-level control mechanisms, including regular spontaneous checks, and it is to be admitted that we keep finding things to be improved”, as specified by Toms Auškāps, Commercial Director of the company. 

Recently, the company was visited by a filming team that showed aspects what the company had to improve — we have already thought how we can work even more efficiently. It is always important for Balticovo not only to observe requirements set by the law, which is strictly supervised by the Food and Veterinary Service, but also to do even more to be one step ahead and think about ways of making the company even better. The company is operating in accordance with international-level quality system which is certified by prestigious BRC Food Safety and ISO Quality Standards for several years; however, the most important for the company is to act so as to fully justify the trust of consumers. Despite that only 2% of our customers currently are paying big attention to the farming method of laying hens, we are still forecasting that the number of these consumers will increase and the company keeps monitoring these tendencies. Openness in relations with consumers ensures trust, therefore we do not hide our plants and explain our consumers the process of hens breeding — we do not wish to idealise it, but we want our consumers to be informed about farming conditions and to be able to make an independent their own choice. 

“However, the company would like to ask filming teams to understand that when entering barns, filming should be carried out by moving very very quietly and slowly, without any searchlights that frighten hens and cause great stress to them, as the result of which hens squeeze up against each other causing physical injuries; moreover, hens stress results in a higher death rate. Regardless of the goals pursued, people entering barns should understand that without observing biosafety measures they subject the flock of hens to a serious risk of disease, the consequences of which might appear half a year later”, Inita Zute, Head of Balticovo’s Veterinary Service, explains.

In 2015, the company exported its products to USA, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Estonia, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Finland, Hungary, Germany and Sweden.

Currently, there are 2.4 million hens at the company; the majority is placed at the company’s main plant in Iecava, yet the company has branches in Madona and Daugavpils.

 

About AS Balticovo

AS Balticovo is a company with over 40 years of experience in the production of eggs and egg products. The company is focused on domestic and international markets with exports up to 70% of its produced volumes. The quality control of products at the plant is under permanent and strict veterinary supervision. With 95% of shares the company is owned by BCO, which belongs to citizens of Latvia. Among Northern European countries the joint stock company “Balticovo” is currently the market leader with a share of 40% in the production of eggs and egg products. The number of employees in 2016 — 246 employees. Company’s turnover in 2015 — EUR 45.9M. In 2016, the Employers’ Confederation of Latvia recognised the company as the best employer in Zemgale. The company has been recognised as one of the most valuable Latvian companies of the decade (2006 – 2015). AS Balticovo has been certified with ISO 9001, ISO 22 000 and BRC quality certificates. In 2016, the company received the prestigious Rudban d’Honneur Award at the largest European business competition “European Business Awards”

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