Organic poultry proves vulnerable to panic

Three years ago, the Biogreco organic chicken farms, on five farms in Laconia and the first of their kind in Greece, had grown from a small concern selling just 135 chickens a week on average, to over 2,000 within just few months. Business was growing – that is, until last October. Stavros Argyropoulos, who founded the firm with Babis Lyras and Yiannakos Meletis, told Kathimerini last week that the firm was threatened with closure. After the first scare last October, sales revived. «That was a trap, because all poultry breeders continued to produce as many birds as before. So when the second crisis struck, we had too many chickens available,» said Argyropoulos. Demand had evened out at 2,000-3,000 a week and Biogreco had about 30,000 chickens of various ages on its farms when the second round of bird flu panic broke out in January. They are now lucky if they sell 500 a week. «That means that every week about 1,000 birds are not slaughtered that should have been. So every month we have 4,000 more birds to feed than usual. We can’t keep them more than 10 days past their slaughter date because then they put on too much fat and become tough,» Argyropoulos said. Nor can prices be raised to cover the extra cost of feeding them longer. Space is also a problem since the law now requires them to be kept under cover so as not to come into contact with wild birds. «We slaughter three times a week and now all the birds are being frozen, but the freezers are at capacity,» he said. Frozen chicken does not sell well in Greece. An attempt is to be made to export them, but hopes are slim.