If there’s one thing the recent avian flu scare in Pampanga reminds us all of, it’s that quality and food safety can never be over-emphasized or taken lightly. An otherwise localized event, its impact was nevertheless felt throughout the poultry, food service, and retail industries.
It made clear the importance of constantly pursuing quality throughout the entire production process.
For San Miguel Foods Inc. (SMFI), makers of Magnolia Fresh Chicken, one of the country’s most popular and most trusted brands in chicken, ensuring quality is a painstaking but necessary process. It starts even before eggs are hatched and follow each chicken throughout the growing, manufacturing, and distribution stages.
“While that incident did not involve any of our farms, it just reinforced to us the idea that it’s really important to put particular emphasis on quality and not take any shortcuts where safety is concerned,” said Rita Imelda “Tatish” Palabyab, president of SMFI’s Agro-Industrial cluster.
“We’ve always adhered to the high quality standards and have consistently met all food safety regulations. Our customers know that when they choose the Magnolia Fresh Chicken brand, it’s a brand they can trust,” she added.
Quality starts at the earliest stage of the process
The pursuit of quality starts with the importation of grandparent chicks. These chicks are grown and bred to produce the parent roosters and hens that produce the eggs hatched in the company’s modern hatcheries. The day-old broilers are then transferred to broiler growing farms.
These farms are owned and operated by SMFI’s business partners. A team composed of field veterinarians, technical personnel, and epidemiologists manages the biosecurity and animal health programs of SMFI in the farms.
A separate team, composed of training and audit specialists, visits farms to ensure they comply with prescribed biosecurity, animal health, and food safety measures.
“Our breeding farms are located in various parts of the country where they are not exposed to urban sprawl and where the threat of disease is minimized,” Ms. Palabyab said.
“They are housed in climate-controlled environments; the ambient temperature is maintained at a low level, while humidity is regulated.”
Climate controlled houses for disease, stress-free environment
Having broilers stay in closed houses, as opposed to traditional open-sided houses, ensures they are better protected from diseases and undesirable contact with wild birds and other stray animals.
“The climate-controlled houses are so designed to ensure adequate air exchange, remove waste gases normally generated by the chickens, and introduce fresh air to avoid heat stress. The houses are also bigger than usual and are adequately lighted,” she said.
To ensure the quality and safety of chicken meat products, microbiological analyses on different stages of poultry production are conducted starting from the hatching eggs, to day-old chicks, up to grown broilers.
“These also include regular swabbing of broiler breeder farm equipment, hatcheries, hauling coops, and related facilities,” Ms. Palabyab added.
The farms receive regular supplies of feed made by B-Meg, San Miguel’s feeds business. Feed and water are continuously made available to the broilers so they will not suffer from hunger- and thirst-induced stress.
“All raw materials for our chicken feed, vaccines and medicines go through rigorous testing and quality control to ensure that there are no contaminants that may end up later in the chicken meat,” she said.
Once broilers have reached desired weight, they are loaded onto properly ventilated trucks and delivered to processing plants where they are humanely slaughtered. The carcasses are then processed, chilled and packed.
“Our processing plants follow Good Manufacturing Practices and HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) and regularly test the quality of finished products in our own laboratories. From these plants, they are brought fresh in refrigerated vans to the supermarkets and other outlets,” Ms. Palabyab said.
Delivering quality to consumers through Magnolia Chicken Stations
Before 2004, fresh, chilled chickens were usually only found in wet markets, while frozen ones were sold in supermarkets. SMFI decided to change the practice by introducing the Magnolia Chicken Station. At present, there are more than 1,000 of them, located in the fresh sections of supermarkets and all Monterey Meatshop Plus outlets.
“The ‘big idea’ was to bring the consumers’ buying habits, honed in wet markets, into the cleaner, more sanitized supermarket environment. The stations allow consumers to buy in bulk, by the piece, or by 100 grams. Customers can also choose specific cuts using tongs, or ask the staff to debone a whole chicken. This revolutionary concept has given consumers the freedom to buy chicken in the cuts and quantity they want,” Ms. Palabyab related.
She added: “All Magnolia Chicken Station products are freshly made by well-trained crew in the outlets, ensuring customers that the products they purchase are guaranteed fresh, safe, and of premium quality.”
A customer can ask the crew for customized cuts and formats, like fillets, deboned chicken and ground chicken. There is also a ready-to-cook line, Timplados, which include marinated chicken cuts, with flavors like Chicken Teriyaki, Inasal, and Korean Barbecue.
“Throughout the years, the Magnolia Chicken Stations have become the brand’s platform in introducing high quality products and customized services. And we continue to innovate and refresh our product offerings,” Ms. Palabyab said.
“The Magnolia Chicken Stations complete the process of making high-quality chicken products available to more customers nation-wide,” she said.
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