What is the history of the farm?
After my grandfather who bred livestock and grew various crops, my father, Jean, went into poultry farming in the 1950s. Up until then it used to be an add-on activity that farmers’ wives used to run. My father discovered modern poultry farming in Brittany and turned it into his main business on his return to the Gers department. He built some henhouses (2 500 m2) and developed the production of laying hens and chickens. He became very involved in the creation of the CNJA (national centre for young farmers) and he helped to set up the Mirande poultry consortium, a cooperative poultry abattoir (turkey and chicken). He was also the secretary general of the CFA (French poultry farming confederation) and one of the directors of ITAVI. He also saw the move from Les Halles wholesale market in Paris to Rungis, with Mr Edmond Hervouet, because he was the first to sell yellow-skinned chicken there. My father later expanded his farm to a total of eleven hectares of open air farming. When I joined him in 1985, we were annually producing 2 000 capons, 2 500 turkeys and 11 000 geese ready for fattening.
How did the business develop?
In the mid-eighties, we developed the production of capons, which was just beginning then, and we went from 2 000 to 8 000 units a year. The same was true for the production of geese ready for fattening. Then I took over the farm when my parents retired in 1990. I developed the Christmas capon and I started to sell my first capons (2000 units) and my first turkeys (500 units) at Rungis and in the east of France. The next year, we expanded to 6000 units. From then onwards, I became more of a traditional poultry farmer in the sense that I cut back on the breeding to concentrate on the preparation, processing and sale of poultry.
How do you work?
At the moment I only raise 4 500 capons (breeding and neutering), all the rest are purchased from cooperatives (Vivadour, Euralis, Terre du Sud) and the Gascon hen association, which supplies me with a thousand Gascon capons and fattened chickens, including the famous hen breed known as Noire d’Astarac Bigorre that I helped to revive. Our total production currently represents 42 000 fowl for festive occasions per year, notably 15 400 capons, 1 300 “cendré” capons, 1 000 Gascon capons, 9 000 mini capons, 8 000 turkeys, 5 300 fattened chickens and 2 000 guinea-fowl. They need to be good and fat to be dry plucked. Our birds for festive occasions have panache in the Gers department. We have been in compliance with European standards since 1996 and I want to point out the serious aid from Rungis Market, which weighed heavily in the European recognition of dry-plucked dressed poultry by obtaining the 2009 decree via the hygiene package. All of our poultry, including the fowl I breed, are produced according to one book of specifications (open air farming, natural feed with corn and dairy product to finish, slaughtered between 5 and 8 months, use-by date 4 weeks).
Part of our poultry is sold in binding, namely the bastide, cendré and Gascon capons. As soon as spring comes, I ask my clients to give me an estimate for the end of the year, which I use as the basis for buying my poultry from suppliers. From September onwards, we review the orders and I recruit my seasonal staff. Then we start plucking part of the poultry (about 2 000) in early November. Since 2008, we also started marketing “prestige discovery” packets containing six different birds of good quality, designed for butchers to sell as of December. These packets are sold mainly at the Grande Epicerie de Paris and Lafayette Gourmet. The sales are up 20% and they account for 12% of our turnover. In addition, we produce for direct sale various capon preserves (jelly, preserves, pâté with foie gras, potted capon with duck fat) and we may further develop oven-ready products with the head and feet.
What do you think of Rungis Market ?
Rungis Market is an international platform that is a real opportunity for producers and an exceptional showcase for creation and innovation because of its fame. I am an ardent admirer of Rungis Market and I have established a real partnership with it. My father used to come here to sell his products from its opening in 1969 after Les Halles in Paris and now it’s my turn to be here.
A native of Mirande (32), Xavier Abadie (age 53) is the son of a poultry farmer and the grandson of a farmer. After graduating from the Purpan (31) agricultural school with an engineering degree and doing his military service in Guinea Conakry by providing technical aid, he went to work for the family farm in 1985, taking over the reins five years later when his parents retired. He is an enthusiastic, savvy professional, who notably launched the Christmas capon and helped to revive the Gascon hen. Finally, Xavier Abadie won the Coq d’Or award in 2001 for the quality of his guinea-fowl capon and his mini capon.