Image via flickr user woodleywonderworks

published on November 25, 2019 - 1:40 PM
Written by John Lindt

Sanger-based Pitman Farms is expanding again in Kings County.

The poultry producer, which has a 110-acre feed mill in Hanford, has applied to the county for a permit for a 1-million-head chicken ranch near Hanford, expanding the existing facility from its current limit of 170,000 head.

The ranch would produce about 6 million chickens a year. In 2018 Kings County saw a doubling of the number of head from around 9 million to 16 million birds. That trend appears to be continuing into 2020.

The project includes the demolition of the existing eight poultry barns and construction of 918,000 square feet of new poultry barns totaling 34 structures. The new poultry barns would be built in two phases along with three additional single-family farm employee residences for caretaker purposes.

Both the world and the U.S. are eating more chicken with the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture projection for chicken consumption at 112 lbs per capita in the U.S., up from 60 lbs in 1960. Chicken consumption here is double that of beef or pork.

On the world stage China, hungry for protein despite the trade war, looks to import more U.S. meat. The Wall Street Journal just reported that China would reopen its market to US chicken, on hold since 2015 after the avian influenza incident. Opening trade to China could mean an uptick of a U.S. industry sales of about $2 billion of poultry, according to the paper.

Tops on China’s menu are chicken paws or chicken feet — popular in Asia but not sold widely the U.S.

One news source says “75 percent of China’s annual chicken imports are made up solely of feet (or paws, as they’re known in the poultry industry). Most of those chicken feet once came from the world’s biggest chicken producer: the United States. But despite the massive demand, fraught international trade politics means that the epic flow of chicken feet to China has slowed to a trickle.”

Pitman has been expanding outside California in recent years as it faces other national poultry competitors. Last year, the family-owned company bought Norbest in Utah. In the Central Valley, it has been expanding both its free-range poultry growing as well as conventional ranches in Kings and Tulare counties.

The permit for this ranch does not appear to offer chickens a chance to leave the barn.

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