Foodwise (news articles)
01 March 2015
Foodwise Issue 36, March 2015
“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after low pricing is forgotten” (Benjamin Franklin).
Scribbled on a white board in the meeting held the previous weekend and from what I was about to learn, an approach that M&J Chickens have adopted at every stage in the production of their cooked chicken Mina and Jenny Souris established M&J Chickens in 1982 in a small facility originally located in Wiley Park. Now, on the cusp of celebrating their 33rd birthday, M&J Chickens operates nationally with six locations across the country and the head office, their cooked chill facility, now based in Marrickville.
A lot has changed in their operating environment in those 33 years.
Initially operating without the need for a licence, M& J Chickens were only licensed in 1998 when the NSW Meat Industry Authority commenced regulation of the poultry processing sector. Since then, they have been proactive in implementing a HACCP based food safety program into their business which they have consistently been able to maintain at an acceptable level of compliance with the Food Authority.
As CEO of M& J Chickens Sam Phylactou says, if you run a quality establishment, food safety is part of the quality system, not something that sits on its own. It has to be part of your culture and part of you psyche.
Under the watchful eye of Sam, the 140 staff at the Sydney facility process approximately 6,000 chickens every day. Their finished cooked ready-to-eat (RTE) chicken products then make their way to clients such as hotels, airlines, aged care facilities, food services and catering companies, hospitals, defence, mine sites, casinos, clubs and pubs as well as to markets on the other side of the globe – their clientele is broad and their reach is wide.
In 2013, M&J Chickens received export accreditation for their cooked products and were issued with their export license.
While export sales account for less than $5M in sales annually, as opposed to their national return of approximately $140M, a great deal of personal investment has been made to secure these markets with a view to growing their export activities to about 10% of their operations in the coming years. Convincing markets such as Dubai, Thailand and Hong Kong that chicken from Australia matches the high standards and food safety requirements of other meat products that Australia is renowned for, such as beef, took time – and a lot of travel. With a company in Dubai currently selling 500kg of cooked tenders and 200kg of cooked wings a week, it looks like their efforts are proving to be worthwhile.
Over the last decade, a financial investment of approximately $20M has been made in capital equipment for their cooked chill and cooked freeze facility – equipment such as spiral ovens and chillers, freezers, tumblers, x-ray systems and washing and pasteurisation systems from Italy. They are now starting to see the benefits of this investment. Not only does the new equipment provide the mechanisations and efficiencies, it also provides them with the ability to produce different kinds of products for different kinds of markets.
The biggest issue that their industry potentially faces is a common one – uncertainty of supply – but fortunately not something they have been affected by for some time.
Sam also believes that there is room for improvement in the poultry industry in regards to marketing. He believes better marketing to educate consumers can dispel some myths, such as the fact that the use of hormones and steroids in chickens was outlawed as far back as 1972 and that vaccines are only used under veterinary supervision. He believes addressing these myths would go a long way in boosting sales of poultry products.
Sam is grateful for the role that the Food Authority play in ensuring food safety in NSW. He said that by providing industry-wide education materials and working directly with the business to provide guidance has been critical to their safety successes.
Sam is grateful for the role that the Food Authority plays in ensuring food safety in NSW. He says that providing industry-wide education materials and working directly with the business to provide guidance has been critical to their safety successes. This is something they experienced first-hand when they first set up their cooked chill facility with the assistance of a senior Food Authority staff member. “Having direct access to someone so senior, a technical specialist who could validate our procedures was paramount,” he said.