February 26, 2004
Indian Poultry Industry Take Steps To Promote Healthy Chicken
The Indian poultry industry launched a campaign on Wednesday to get more people to eat chicken amid fears of bird flu in the region.
"We need to make the public aware that eating chicken is safe," said Balaram Yadav, head of the poultry division at Godrej, a leading Indian consumer goods company.
"People must know there is no fear of bird flu in India," said Yadav, sharing a makeshift stage with a person in a yellow chicken suit.
Standing in front of "Chicken Shining" banners -a play on the government's "India Shining" campaign -in Bombay's main wholesale market, Bollywood star Perizaad Zorabian joined Yadav to dig into pieces of chicken coated with red sauce.
Animal rights activists from People for Ethical Treatment of Animals camped nearby, waving banners that read, "Eating chicken is injurious to health."
"The conditions in which chickens are slaughtered are appalling," said Anuradha Sawhney, head of PETA,s India chapter. "Birds are crammed into sheds and cut up in their own feces and blood."
Yadav and other poultry farmers rejected this and called for a check on facilities, which they say conform to international standards.
Although no case of bird flu has been reported in India, chicken prices have dropped by one-third, fueled by the Asia-wide panic over the disease that has claimed nearly two dozen lives.
The poultry industry has been losing more than $2.2 million daily due to a crash in demand for chicken and eggs, according to India's Poultry and Development Coordination Council.
As many as 10 Asian countries are reeling from an avian flu outbreak which has killed 22 people in Thailand and Vietnam. With millions of infected chickens and other fowl culled in other Asian countries, India sees an export opportunity.
Of India's annual poultry and egg exports of $84.4 million, chicken accounts for only $22.2 million.
Yadav estimated that India's chicken exports would climb by 40% with orders flooding poultry farms across the country.
Some 20 containers loaded with chicken were bound this week for countries in the Middle East, said Vijay Pizare, deputy general manager of India's largest poultry exporter Venkateshwara Hatcheries. He said the company had received orders from Japan and Indonesia as well.
But the worries remain.
"We still eat chicken but only if it's cooked at home. I don't allow my family to eat chicken at restaurants anymore," said Fatima Abbas, 30, who stopped by with her children to watch a street play organized by the poultry association.