For the well-being of animals – and people

Hubers, one of the pioneers in organic poultry production, has been part of the Bell family for the past year. The Austrian company started with the processing of organic chicken more than a quarter century ago. Today it is one of the biggest suppliers in Europe. And this trend is rising in tandem with customer demand for meat from animal-friendly production.

The Zarfl family's farm is located in picturesque Lavanttal in Kärnten at an altitude of 1,100 metres above sea level. Here, four generations of the family live under one roof – from the 89-year-old great-grandmother to the baby that is a few months old – and take care of some 13,600 chickens that are raised in accordance with organic standards. The Zarfl spouses themselves care for two flocks of 4,800 animals each. Daughter Melanie, a qualified poultry expert and designated successor farmer, looks after 4,000 animals. "Our chickens enjoy the very best conditions here: fresh air, clean spring water and large meadows where they can roam freely," explains Johannes Zarfl. "This is nature at its best. And you can see this in our animals."

The Zarfl family's farm is one of around 100 fattening farms in Austria and southern Germany who supply the Huber group with organic chicken and turkey. "Those who want to work with us in this area must have been an organic farmer for at least three years and have converted their entire farm to this form of agriculture," explains Sylvia Huber, Head of Marketing and Distribution at Hubers Landhendl.

In contrast to conventional farms, the fatteners also have to meet many other guidelines, including, for example, stocking considerably fewer animals on larger areas, giving the animals access to an outdoor area and giving them organic, GMO-free and regional feed. Growth promoters and the prophylactic use of antibiotics are forbidden. It has been shown that species-appropriate farming methods and high-quality feed guarantee the best health care for the poultry.

The opportunity to interact with grass and stones on the meadow or the litter in the coops and a long enough resting period during the night also contribute to the animals' well-being. A special breed is used for organic broilers. The typically brown-feathered chickens grow slowly and are very lively and robust. The result lies in the taste: the meat is tender and especially aromatic.

As the first company of its kind in Austria, Huber began to raise organic chickens at the beginning of the 1990s. The founders, Maria and Johann Huber, realised at an early stage that their company could only survive on the market by providing excellent quality. Today, organic poultry accounts for more than ten percent of their total business. And demand will continue to rise. "Sales of our organic poultry products have sky-rocketed in the past few years," says Sylvia Huber. "Consumer awareness of animal welfare and species-appropriate husbandry is growing and will continue to boost our business."

The Zarfl family also attaches prime importance to the well-being of their chickens. "When the animals are doing well, we're also doing well," is the farmer's tenet. He has been raising organic poultry for 15 years, and for the past five as supplier to the Huber Group. The baby chicks come to the farm one day after hatching and stay there for 60 days on average. During this time they may not gain more than 40 grams per day. This is an organic requirement. "The chickens that we raise are all different and it's very exciting for us when new chicks arrive," says Johannes Zarfl. He has also found a sensible and sustainable solution for the excretions of his three flocks: a part goes towards producing top-quality organic fertiliser for end customers and the rest goes back to the feed manufacturers as fertiliser. In this way, the loop is closed.