Indian black chicken producers seek geographical indication to boost trade

By Raghavendra Verma, in New Delhi

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Chicken Meat Livestock Poultry

India's black chicken sells for nearly four times the price of standard chicken
India's black chicken sells for nearly four times the price of standard chicken
Authorities in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh are trying to acquire national geographical indication (GI) protection for a nutritious variety of ‘black chicken’ called ‘Kadaknath’, to promote national and maybe overseas sales. 

Its dark meat is prized and priced highly for its low cholesterol, low fat and high protein content.

A kilogramme of ‘Kadaknath’ meat is sold in India at US$15 in comparison to US$3.80 for standard chicken, breeders told GlobalMeatNews.

With GI protection, the farmers would be able to establish their identity at an international level and develop market linkages,​” said Fauzia Karim, monitoring and evaluation officer at Gramin Vikas Trust, a Madhya Pradesh non-governmental organisation.

Promote local livestock

Karim told GlobalMeatNews that the GI application had been lodged with the Indian government’s Geographical Indications Registry, in Chennai, as part of a Jhabua district administration project to promote indigenous breed conservation, and the GI tag maybe approved by March.

If approved as currently proposed, the GI rule would insist that the application ‘Kadaknath’ chicken would only describe meat reared in the Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh, from the correct breed of chicken, delivering an appropriate nutritional profile.

According to India’s National Research Centre on Meat, in Hyderabad, ‘Kadaknath’ chicken contains 23% protein, 2% fat and 0.6% cholesterol. A normal broiler chicken’s meat and skin, according to the US Department of Agriculture, holds 18.7% protein, 15% fat and 0.75% cholesterol.

The local belief in the medicinal properties of this chicken and its different taste in the past fostered over-consumption, which, coupled with breeding difficulties, almost wiped out its supply in the 1990s. “Kadaknath birds do not do enough sitting [on the eggs], therefore half of their eggs do not hatch [naturally],​” Hari Shankar Yadava, director at agricultural research centre, Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya, in Gwalior told GlobalMeatNews.

‘Not mass-produced’

Furthermore, ‘Kadaknath’ chicks require 105 to 120 days to grow full body weight of 1.25kg on a special maize-based diet their balanced diet, without which it could take six to seven months to attain full size, said Yadava. A normal broiler chicken in India attains its full weight in just 42 days.

To overcome some of these difficulties, in 2011 the authorities set up a central hatchery in Jhabua and provided solar incubating machines to the farmers, following which the bird population revived.

However, still the ‘Kadaknath’ chicken are not mass-produced as the biggest sheds in Jhabua hold only 100 to 150 birds, said Yadava. Most of this production, he said, was consumed in the local market and nearby towns. “Mostly the big hotels take away the produce directly from the farmers,” he said.

‘Plenty of demand’

Meanwhile, ‘Kadaknath’ chicken farming has been spreading out of Jhabua to farms in other states, and as a result, the GI application as it stands could cause a problem because of its geographical restriction. As a result, some objections have been raised – for instance, by K Sathiamoorthy, proprietor of Rudras Breeders, which runs a farm of 150 ‘Kadaknath’ birds in Jolarpettai, Tamil Nadu. He said: “Consumers will have a misconception that if this chicken has grown outside Jhabua, it will lose its quality,​” he told GlobalMeatNews. He added that there was plenty of demand anyway. “Consumers call us from Delhi and Maharashtra to place orders and there is four months’ waiting time before they get the meat,​” said Sathiamoorthy. “There are lot of people who want to eat very different tasty meat,​” he said.

However, the very dark – almost black – colour of ‘Kadaknath’ chicken meat still causes apprehension among many consumers, said Sathiamoorthy, but it could be overcome with an increased awareness after getting a GI tag. The same problem was faced when broilers were introduced in India, which has white meat, while standard rural supplies of chicken has red to brown meat, he said.

Breeders are also looking for international trade in ‘Kadaknath’ as, according to Yadava, a few years ago, poultry breeders in Arabian countries demanded chicks of this breed, but there were very few of them at that time. “Now the shortage has been overcome and the business can grow,​” he said.

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