However, the higher price of this type of chicken on the local market still discourages consumers from doing so.
Forty per cent of Latvian consumers aged 18 to 29 and 33% of consumers aged 40-plus preferred to buy chicken grown without the use of antibiotics, reported the study. On average, 68% of consumers in the country confirmed it was important that the chicken on their tables was grown on an antibiotic-free diet, Ķekava said.
Ķekava is the only company manufacturing antibiotic-free poultry in the Baltics. The company sells its products in Latvia, Lithuania and, since May 2018, in Estonia.
General interest in antibiotic-free poultry might be high, but this was not the only factor determining consumer behaviour. While there could be strong demand for organic products in the country, they are hampered by high prices, said Dzintra Lejniece, head of the Latvian Association of Pig Producers.
Wages for middle-class consumers in Latvia are not that high, so they tend to choose meat products by first looking at the price tags, Lejniece noted. That said, there were some organic meat producers in Latvia who were relatively successful, but it was hard to produce organic meat, as organic feed is not manufactured in the country, she added.
Since May, Ķekava has been selling its poultry meat, labelled as ‘manufactured without antibiotics’, in Estonia. The company originally aimed to capture 15% of the Estonian poultry meat market, but sales failed to reach the company’s expectations.
The first two months on the Estonian market were not bad, but they could hardly be called good, Andrius Pranckevičius, Ķekava’s chairman of the board, told local news outlet Postimees. In the first month, the company failed to achieve its goals in the market, he admitted.
A particular problem is that Ķekava’s chicken is more expensive in Estonia, compared to other local products, Pranckevičius said. Due to the higher production costs for poultry not fed with antibiotics, the company has to sell its products at a higher price.
As a result, Ķekava sells chicken in Estonia for €5.99 per kg, while local producers Tallegg and Rannamõisa sets their prices at €4.99 per kg and at €5.35 per kg respectively, according to Pranckevičius.
Meanwhile, Priit Dreiman, chairman of quality control at HKScan Estonia, claimed that all poultry manufactured in Estonia had no trace of antibiotics when they hit the grocery shelves. Dreiman added that Estonian poultry was regularly subjected to laboratory inspection and no antibiotic residues had ever been detected in the final products.