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Poultry Industry in Ireland

The poultry industry is divided into 2 separate sections – poultry meat and egg production. In each sector production can be either highly intensive e.g. battery cage eggs, free range or organic. For each of these enterprises there is a corresponding breeding business undertaken as separate enterprises with foundation breeding stock imported. A small number of companies control the entire poultry breeding industry world wide. Franchise rights are awarded and Ireland has the same commercial stock as any other area in the developed world.

70 million chickens are produced annually, 4 million turkeys and eggs from 2 million hens. The industry is seriously effected by cheap imports from third countries. Ireland, with its high cost base for raw feed ingredients is unable to compete economically. The fast food industry is supplied mainly by imports. Quality also should be considered and the quality assured logo is clearly evident on Irish chicken produced on farms participating in the quality assurance scheme.

Ireland is the highest consumer of poultry meat in the EU while at the low end of the egg consumption scale.

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Options in Poultry

While broadly divided into meat and eggs, there are numerous separate enterprises. Best bio-security practice is to confine one species and one age to one poultry site and each site operating an "all in, all out policy".

BreedingMeat ProductionEggs
Broiler breeder pullet / young stock production Broiler - growing:
  • intensive
  • free range
  • organic
Egg production:
  • cage
  • perchery
  • barn
  • free range
  • organic
Pullet production:
  • cage
  • free range
  • organic
Turkey - growing:
  • intensive
  • seasonal farm fresh
  • seasonal / farm fresh
Broiler breeding Duck - growing Hatchery

Egg packing


Geese - breeding Geese - growing
Duck - breeding  
Turkey - breeding


Poultry as a commodity is market led, it is therefore absolutely essential to establish a market before embarking on an enterprise. Poultry commodities are highly perishable and must be delivered to market very promptly.

With ever increasing emphasis on traceability, the supermarket chains, who control most of poultry sales, deal only with substantial producers and the sole poultry trader has little chance of selling therein unless linked with an established processor or packer (depending on which aspect of the business is involved).

For meat producers that means a link with a poultry processor; for egg producers, a link with an egg packing centre.

This following illustration indicates the importance of MARKET for a free range egg enterprise.

All eggs on sale in retail outlets must be packed in an egg packing centre, registered by the Department of Agriculture & Food.

Because of the nature of the retail business it is difficult to break in as a sole trader. Therefore, the route for new entrants is as satellite producers for existing packing centres.

Sole traders also have difficult maintaining supplies on a year round basis. Therefore, providing their own on farm grading and packing facilities is not advisable other than in exceptional circumstances.

Poultry Management

Robust biosecurity and maintenance of bird welfare are common management facets for all poultry enterprises. There ends the commonality. Nutrition and house space requirements vary with each enterprise e.g. multiple ration changes are essential in the feeding of broilers despite their short life span (49 days max.). Ranging space differs between free range and organic. Therefore the best advice is:

  • Trawl through enterprises
  • Identify enterprise to suit the farm
  • Procure market
  • Learn, learn, learn. Mistakes are expensive. The way is paved – no need to invent it.
  • Attend an education / training module