The guinea fowl is a rare bird. Here in Europe, we have constructed the BIGGEST GUINEA FOWL INDUSTRY IN THE WORLD, of which we are justly proud; it preserves biodiversity by maintaining the wild nature of the species and the incomparable flavour of the meat. Come and discover an industry sector committed on every level, from selecting the best breeds and throughout every phase of the industry right up to your dinner table, for the best and for the good.
The genetic make-up of the guinea fowl we now breed in Europe may be very close to that of their wild African ancestors, but the French guinea fowl industry is the only one in the world that’s been subject to a long and painstaking selection process. Our long-term objective is to improve egg-laying, anatomical structure, resistance to disease and even feed conversion rate, i.e. the efficiency with which the feed consumed by the bird is converted into weight gain. Our selection process, however, is also geared towards preserving the characteristics of the species, especially the flavour of the meat - the distinctive, original flavour - somewhere between game and poultry, but at a price that everyone can take advantage of.
There are two French companies involved in the breeding of guinea fowl, and they supply the entire global market with guinea fowl breeding stock, i.e. between 280,000 and 290,000 birds per year. 80% of these birds are destined for the French market, 15% for the EU (Italy above all), and 5% for non-EU countries (Russia, USA, Africa).
There are two distinct stages in the guinea fowl industry:
- hatching, for the production of day-old keets, and raising breeding females for egg-laying, incubating eggs and reproducing.
- The breeding process takes between 77 and 150 days, depending on the type of production.
WHICH CAME FIRST, THE GUINEA FOWL
or the egg
We won’t waste time arguing whether it was the guinea fowl or the egg that came first, but we would hazard that it was the egg, because a lot of things start with the egg in our experience.
European hatcheries (five in France - one of which in La Réunion - and two in Italy) export both keets to be raised in the client’s country and eggs to be incubated by the client. These products are exported to other European countries (Belgium and Poland, but also Romania, Hungary and French overseas departments and territories), and also to Africa for third countries. Hungary, for example, also has a hatchery set up for incubating and hatching guinea fowl eggs.
In France, there are five companies that produce and incubate guinea fowl eggs for hatching. The annual production of eggs for hatching is a little under 50 million, of which 1.7 million were exported in 2017. After incubation and hatching, 31 million keets were installed over the year at a thousand poultry farms in France, and 1.3 million were exported to be reared in other European countries.
Whatever type of production the keets are destined for, they are installed at farms where the ambient temperature is around 34°C, on ground covered with natural litter, and where they have access to clean water and feed suitable for their dietary requirements, consisting of plant-based raw materials, vitamins and minerals.
[KEY FIGURES - FRANCE]
48,7 million eggs for hatching in 2017
31 million guinea fowl eggs hatched in 2017
1,7 million eggs for hatching exported in 2017
1,3 million keets exported in 2017
The true characteristics that distinguish the guinea fowl from other types of poultry are all in the breeding, and mainly relate to the fact that the guinea fowl is a wild creature whose genetic make-up has remained very close to that of its contemporaries which still roam wild in Africa. It's a bird that grows slowly and has a markedly gregarious instinct, and these special requirements are taken into account at the farms, in terms of accommodating both their physiological welfare needs and their natural behaviour and mistrustful temperament. For example, when the keets are a little over a month old, the farmers install wooden perches in the poultry houses because guinea fowl like to be high up.
There are three types of production: core range guinea fowl, which are reared in percheries and live for a minimum of 70 days; certified guinea fowl, which are given access to the outdoors in accordance with the specifications, and live for a minimum of 82 days; free-range 'label rouge' guinea fowl, which are raised for a minimum of 94 days in poultry houses of 400m2 maximum and have access to the outdoors; organic guinea fowl, which are free-range birds, live for a minimum of 98 days and are fed on organic feed. Finally, guinea fowl capons which live for 150 days.
600,000 new guinea fowl per week are introduced at the various types of breeding establishment in France - 65% as core range production, 30% as label rouge. The remaining 5% are divided between certified and organic guinea fowl and capons, but the proportion of label rouge and organic birds is steadily increasing.
In Italy, around 150,000 keets are introduced on farms every week.
Guinea fowl are omnivorous creatures that have retained their instinct for hunting. Certified, organic and label rouge free-range guinea fowl, as well as capons, which all have access to grassy land, find some of their food themselves: plants, berries, seeds and insects. The rest of their diet, and all of it for birds raised in poultry houses, consists entirely of plant-based raw materials, vitamins and minerals.
The inevitable step before they end up on our plates - slaughter. Almost 40,000 tonnes of guinea fowl were produced in Europe in 2017 (equivalent in carcasses, sources: Eurostat, Istat, SSP, Destatis).
In France, over 80% of these 30.4 million tonnes are produced by four companies. Due to the high demand over the Christmas and New Year period, more than 15% of the slaughter takes place in the month of December, more than twice as much as in July and August.
The knife point
Before it hits the grill
Guinea fowl is easy to cut up and is most often presented as:
- two legs (thigh and drumstick)
- two breasts (skin-on fillet and wing)
Each piece represents an individual portion, around 150-250 grams for a leg and 140-240 grams for a breast.
Guinea fowl portions account for less than 11% of label rouge free-range guinea fowl sales in France, although this is gradually increasing, but almost 60% of core-range birds now come packaged as portions. 11.3 thousand tonnes of guinea fowl portions were sold in 2017.
Consumers in all countries
Consumption of guinea fowl
Europe accounts for between 80% and 85% of total guinea fowl production, thanks to France. That makes us the world’s main producer - and we’re proud of it!
42% of what we produce is purchased from supermarkets, butchers’ shops and markets by household consumers.
40% of what we produce goes to the catering sector. That’s why you find a lot of guinea fowl on restaurant menus.
18% goes abroad (53% of this as whole birds), because the pleasure is in sharing!
What is the cip?
The CIP - Comité Interprofessionnel de la Pintade - is the French guinea fowl committee of the national inter-professional poultry board, recognised by the public authorities. Included in the committee are farmers, hatcheries, breeders, feed manufacturers, abattoirs and distributors. Its main purpose is to revitalise the guinea fowl sector in Europe and monitor the quality of the product; in short, to guarantee good taste and a taste for what’s good!