German organic producer group takes on big goals

In late August, ENAJ journalists headed to Rostock, Germany to learn about organic labeling and production standards. With help from the German Guild of Agricultural Journalists, Caspar von der Crone, CEO of IG-Bio-Initiative, Association of Organic Farmers, organized the event. It was through Mr Van der Crone that participants learned about the complexity of organic labeling standards in Germany, and how Bio-Initiative’s higher-standard label further differentiates organic producers from their competitors.

By Melanie Epp

On the first day of the tour, participants gathered at the headquarters of producer group EZ Fürstenhof, the largest under the Bio-Initiative label. Friedrich Behrens is founder and managing director of the 19-farm community, located in the regions of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Brandenburg. Under the guidelines of Bio-Initiative, EZ Fürstenhof farms produce eggs, potatoes, meat, and apple juice.

Highest organic standards

Working under the Bio-Initiative label is a good fit for EZ Fürstenhof as the two associations have parallel views on animal protection, environmental protection, fairness to producers, the preservation of family structures and conservation of natural resources, such as soil, air and water. According to Mr Van der Crone, Bio-Initiative guarantees the highest organic standards for both producers and consumers.

Ambitious organization

EZ Fürstenhof is no doubt an ambitious organization. Perhaps their most ambitious undertaking, though, has been to put an end to male chick maceration in egg production. Instead, the “haehnlein” or “brother hens” are raised for their meat. Previously, this has not been done because haehnlein roosters take four times longer to reach maturity than the typical broiler bird. This means added costs and more resources. In fact, Mr Behrens said each bird would need to be sold for around €32 apiece to cover costs. Their solution has been to charge a €0.04 fee per egg sold under the “haehnlein” concept. Over the whole lifespan of the hen, it financially supports the rooster, Mr Behrens explained.

While they’re not able to raise 100% of the “brother hens,” they have to reach this goal by next year. This will mean rearing over 300,000 roosters per year.

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