“Poultry farming is not rocket science,” says Mark Rokkedahl. That said the owner of Rokkedahl field, farming and food is a true entrepreneur who could make any business model look simple.
From the time his grandfather had a mixed farm with some chickens as well in 1963, he grew to be the largest single poultry producer in Denmark, producing 11 million broilers a year. Until recently, the company focused mainly on farming, growing their own grains and producing broilers. With all birds being processed by HKScan, one of the 2 Danish poultry processors. That has now changed. HKScan is still buying some 6 million conventional broilers from Rokkedahl, but the company invested in its own small scale poultry processing plant. “Now we have the whole production from farm to fork in our own hands,” says Mr Rokkedahl.
Mark Rokkedahl is a third generation farmer, who scaled up in a big way. He now owns 50 poultry houses and slaughters in a recently added processing plant. Photo: Fabian Brockotter
Market demands more
He continues: “Being dependent on a large processor has certain disadvantages. The most important being dependent on their ideas concerning marketing and product placement. What we saw as a producer is that our consumer market is changing. In Denmark we, for a long time now, are salmonella free, antibiotic free and have an eye for animal welfare. That is our standard. But the market demands more. That is where we saw an opportunity and that opportunity we grabbed with our own processing plant.”
Private label for free-range and organic meat
Mr Rokkedahl sat together with consumers and animal welfare organisations and developed his own private label. “Under this label we produce conventional, free-range and organic poultry meat. Ensuring a higher level of animal welfare from start to finish and marketing this from within our own company, makes the difference.”
Whole production process is open to the public
Rokkedahl farm builds on trust. They produce locally and are a real family owned and run business. On top of that, transparency is key. Mark Rokkedahl: “Our entire production process from harvesting our grains, to growing our broilers until processing them is open to visitors and designed with glass walls and visitors centres, explaining what we do and how we do it.” Mr Rokkedahl is proud of what they do. “All our production is done within a 25 minute drive in a total of 50 houses. On our main location we have harvesting, growing and processing all together, that makes a visit really worthwhile. We have a fantastic story to tell here.”
Niche markets are the future for Rokkedahl farming, local for local production is one of the key marketing strong points. Photo: Fabian Brockotter
Future holds many options
For the near future, Mr Rokkedahl still has plans to work out. “Only 2% of the Danish broiler market is currently demanding organic poultry meat, but there is a lot of potential there. This niche is growing by 30% per year. With that in mind we laid out all our houses in such a way that we can change them from conventional to organic or free-range production within one cycle. There is a lot of added value in these markets.” When it comes to further developing his company Mr Rokkedahl thinks of integrating further upwards. “When one asks me what my business is, my primary response will be that I am a broiler farmer. Nowadays I am still getting to grips with the idea that I am a poultry processor as well. Maybe in a couple of years I will have my own hatchery and parent stock as well, but that is still something to delve into.”