Checking in with chickens

(A title for Daniel, there)

Ol’ Whip-cracker Abram will be happy to know that today I went to a farm. Two farms, in fact and a feed mill.

I headed about an hour out of Delhi to a place called Gurgaon. The city’s in the next state to Delhi and is home to about a million people. It used to be all farmland, but now it’s a bizarre mix of shanty areas, enormous office blocks, fancy apartments and hundreds of shopping malls. Just check out what was at one of them:


It seemed so wrong to see both of them there – especially with the same window dressings and models used in UK branches – but apparently India’s yoof increasingly want to live a Western lifestyle, whether that’s the clothes they wear, the music they listen to, or the food they eat.

The Westernisation of Indian consumers’ diets means meat consumption is going through the roof. An increase in wages and disposable income has added to the trend, and apparently when people have more dosh in India, they splash out on chicken.

Poultry, according to Ricky, my guide for the day, is the country’s ‘sunrise industry’. It’s growing at near-double digit rates every year and producers are investing heavily to meet demand.

Ricky, who is the treasurer of the Poultry Federation of India, took me to see Sanjeev, who’s a poultry farmer – and a pretty successful one by the looks of it. Sanjeev has a hatchery producing 200,000 broiler chicks, a feed mill producing 80,100 tonnes of pellets a day and a broiler unit which houses 60,000 birds.

Sanjeev and Ricky

He’s planning on growing his business by 14% next year and has just started work on a fancy new environment-controlled unit, despite having very little in the line of mechanisation and an intermittent supply of electricity.

I was pleasantly surprised by the by the standards on the farm – it was spotlessly clean, and while mortality rates are pretty high at 8-10%, Sanjeev hopes the new unit, complete with fans to temper the Delhi summer heat, will cut that right down. Otherwise the birds looked pretty happy and had plenty of room to roam.

The other thing that surprised me was how technology-obsessed Sanjeev was. Despite having very little in the way of farm mechanisation (his workforce was more than 60 and they did everything by hand), he had an Audi with inbuilt Sat-Nav and an impressive speaker system as well as one of these:

Sanjeev and iPhone

That’s right, he’s got an iPhone. He doesn’t use it for the Internet though – apparently going online is a ‘last resort’ for farmers, they prefer to meet people face-to-face to get their information. Maybe he just has it for the FourSquare app instead…

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1 Response to “Checking in with chickens”

  1. Kev

    Hi Caroline.
    Trust you to find the guy with the iPhone
    Chicken jalfrezi tonight?