Within Groupe Grimaud they call it the ‘Natural Concept’, a generic approach to build a more sustainable business, tuning in to customers, consumers and societal demands. Hubbard’s
managing director Olivier Rochard: “We embrace the vision of ‘Less Feed, More Meat’. There is no better way of promoting
sustainable food production than through the most efficient and robust broilers.”
When one speaks about Hubbard one speaks about Groupe Grimaud and vice versa. Both are interconnected at many levels, from management to R&D, from communication to day to day business. Each company under the Grimaud flag has its own responsibilities and targets, but profiting from each other’s worldwide network and transferable know-how. It was the previously Merial owned Hubbard which transformed Groupe Grimaud from what was essentially a duck and rabbit breeding company in 2004 to a multispecies breeding organisation in 2005.
Later breeding companies for layers (Novogen), pigs (Choice Genetics), guinea fowl (Galor) and even shrimps (Blue Genetics) were added.
Back to Hubbard. Managing director Olivier Rochard makes no secret of the fact that the company was in bad weather when Grimaud bought the place in 2005. “It took us the better part of 2006 and 2007 to turn the business around. From that time on we were able to use the Grimaud organisation to create additional leverage and accelerate.”
Olivier Rochard (47) is managing director of Hubbard worldwide, reporting directly to Frédéric Grimaud, CEO of Groupe Grimaud. He has been working for Groupe Grimaud since 1999 in different positions: production director of a US-based subsidiary followed by his role as general manager of Grimaud Frères Sélection. Hubbard is part of the family company since the takeover from Merial in 2005.
What is the scope of the business of Hubbard at this moment?
“With a turnover of more than 100 million euro’s Hubbard is the largest branch of the Grimaud family of businesses. This turnover is created for 80% in the conventional broiler market, so you can imagine that this is very important to us. We focus on different markets around the world. E.g. we have about 40% of the US male market with the Hubbard M99 breeder male, 15% of Brazil’s total market with the Hubbard Flex product and 50% in Russia with our Hubbard F15 product. Also in Asia we see enormous growth potential with our conventional products and are seeing the positive results of our hard work coming up now.”
“The other 20% of our turnover we make in the ‘alternative/premium’ markets. The scope of this 20% is enormous, we supply about three-quarter of the world’s alternative market parent stock, excluding China. It is a growing market, but it will never be as big as the conventional market.”
Is this why some look at Hubbard as being a niche market player?
“Unfortunately, in some regions, some people do not realise how strong we are in the conventional markets. But, we are indeed renowned for our alternative products and our coloured lines, around the world and especially in France, where we have a long tradition of ‘label’-type chicken. However since 2013, we are seeing a strong and increasing demand for our conventional products, due to the combination of productivity and robustness.”
“With our alternative lines we are in the business of making products for new segments and market solutions. There are many consumers looking into better taste, antibiotic free production and more welfare friendly systems which grow the broilers longer and at lower density. This market is growing strongly, especially in countries where traditional broiler producing is facing some headwind from societal demands and changing consumer’s wishes.”
How does the ‘Less Feed, More Meat’ principle fit into that?
“The ‘Less Feed, More Meat’ principle works on two levels, on conventional and on alternative production. It is a fact that the one is more efficient than the other, but both can be improved. Feeding the growing world population with alternative production alone will be a stretch, but better feed efficiency in the alternative production will help as well as it will make the difference in conventional production. On both levels we are breeding for better breast, legs and total meat yields, evaluating selection candidates by using conformation score, ultra sound technology and an additional range of new technologies.”
So it’s mainly about feed efficiency?
“The ‘Natural Concept’ of Groupe Grimaud, translated by Hubbard to ‘Less Feed, More Meat’ has five key points; favour robustness and feed efficiency, prevent disease risk, stimulate the immune system, use antibiotics only in case of proven pathology and to give the earth its nutrients back. So there is much more to it than feed efficiency alone. Ensuring a lower level of mortality for instance, less rejections at the processing plant, robust and easy to manage birds and of course more efficient parent stock. For example our Classic female is the benchmark of the industry when we talk about chicks producer per breeder female at 64 weeks of age, or our dwarf female which produces more chicks per square meter and needs less feed per chick than a conventional female. On a R&D level our targets are achieved with a clear focus on breeder performance, egg numbers, egg weight and quality, percentage of hatch.”
Feed efficiency is on the mind of all growers, what can we expect there?
“It is not simple to say where we will be on a commercial broiler farm in the field anywhere around the world in a number of years, but I can tell you from our experiences at the pure line level there is a lot of potential. Our best birds perform with an FCR of 1.20 between 25 and 45 days. That sounds like music to my ears as a grower. One can be assured that with this potential in the pipeline a strong focus on feed efficiency is high on the agenda of our dedicated team of geneticists.”
Can these conventional birds compete with those of Aviagen and Cobb?
“We are the best when it comes to overall feed efficiency. And we are close to the competition, but not the number one if it comes to deboned breast meat.
We have been focusing a lot on the whole package, birds with good health, good legs, good skeletons that reach the processing plant in the largest possible numbers with good total yields, this is what the major part of the world market is asking for. That said, this does not mean that we have been giving up on breast meat. We have and are investing a lot of money and resources in developing birds which will add more breast meat in the very near future. This is also one of our main research directions for the next five years and we are able to do so because our lines are fundamentally sound.”
What do you mean by ‘fundamentally sound’?
“We foresaw the importance of resistance and immunity many years ago and selected for robustness of the birds. In sib-tests under challenging conditions we designed specific programs to be able to produce without the use of antibiotics and select birds which are not prone to develop footpad dermatitis (FPD).”
“When it comes to FPD we are way in front of our competitors. Nowadays everyone in the more developed countries look at FPD and also antibiotic free production. We see the new European regulations and market demands moving in our direction and the direction of the ‘Natural Concept’ as well. Sound production of animal protein based on a balanced and innovative R&D programme, that is what Hubbard is all about.”
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