Guest Blog: Pollo Garden

With the help of a $15,000 grant from the Greenbelt Fund, Pollo Garden is launching a market assessment for their slow growth chickens. Minh Do from Pollo Garden provides an update on the project and next steps for his niche product in this guest blog.

The Project

Pollo Garden is a small poultry farm raising slow-growth chickens in Ottawa (Stittsville). In the spring and summer of 2016, with the help of an investment from the Greenbelt Fund, Pollo Garden launched a pilot project to raise and distribute 150 slow growth chickens free of charge to potential customers in order to assess market uptake of their unique offering. In return, participants completed a questionnaire designed to capture participant impressions of the slow growth chickens provided.

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Raising Slow Growth Chickens

The manner in which the chickens are raised is modeled after the French Label Rouge program, whereby the chickens are raised in low density housing and pastured from dawn-to-dusk. The chickens are provided non-medicated commercial feed, as well spent grains from a local micro brewery and whole grains from a local farm. Slow growth chickens are raised over a longer period of time than conventional chickens, and are on average smaller when compared to their conventional counterparts. The meat however, has more flavour and texture, making it particularly suited for slow cook recipes.

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Results & Challenges

This pilot project has two objectives: 1) to determine whether or not participants like the product, and 2) to get a sense of what the consumer would be willing to pay for slow growth chicken. The one draw back to raising slow growth chickens is the cost of doing so. A slow growth chicken takes much longer to reach maturity so the associated costs are proportionally higher and the resulting chicken is smaller.

In other words, slow growth chickens would need to be sold at a higher price per pound in order for it to be cost effective. Preliminary study results indicate that the slow growth chickens were enjoyed by the vast majority of study participants. The challenge going forward will be whether or not consumers are willing to assume the extra costs associated with raising them.

What's Next

Assuming all goes well, Pollo Garden will be applying to the Artisanal Chicken Program which would allow us to raise up to 600 chickens per year. While Pollo Garden is a small local operation, we are optimistic and excited about the prospect of satisfying the demand of the local foodie market.