Ask anybody what chicken tinola tastes best and he will readily tell you that it is the native chicken. There are a number of native strains in the Philippines with their own distinct characteristics. All of them are well known for their special taste.
The more famous ones are the Paraoakan from Palawan, the Banaba from Batangas, Bolinao from Pangasinan, Camarines from Bicol, Darag from Panay, and Jolo from the south.
All over the country, farmers raise their own native chickens. But these are backyard operations and they produce just a limited number. That is fine. They help in ensuring food security in the country. And they also derive income albeit limited for their family’s upkeep.
BIG MARKET – There is a big market waiting to be tapped if only native chickens can be produced in volumes that can supply the needs of big customers such as restaurants on a regular basis year in and year out. The problem now is that there is no grower who can commit to supply relatively significant volumes throughout the year and at price that is profitable for both the grower and the buyers.
THE PROBLEM – Because most native chicken growers don’t have the volume, the traders who go out to buy from the farmers usually don’t get the number and quality they are looking for. Thus they will settle for a mix of young five-month-old cockerels and pullets which have tender meat and old culls with tough meat. The restaurants simply don’t want that. They would like a steady supply of native chickens of the same age and size, if possible. Same tenderness of meat.
RAY OF HOPE – There is hope that in the future native chickens of the desired qualities can be supplied regularly to the market, big and small. There is need to develop a strain or strains of native chickens that are true to type. This means that when they are multiplied, the birds are more or less of the same color of plumage, body size, growth rate and other desirable characteristics.
Government researchers as well as private entrepreneurs are now working to develop breeds or strains that are true to type. In the private sector, one of them is Ernesto Abalos who has developed the white Paraoakan through constant selection. Another is Nick Bihis of Ibaan, Batangas who for the last three years has been aiming to develop a true-to-type strain of Banaba chicken. He is in a position to do that because he is an animal science major from UP Los Baños.
In the government sector, the National Swine and Poultry Research and Development Center (NSPRDC) headed by Dr. Rene Santiago in Tiaong, Quezon has been conducting studies on the native chicken. They have, for instance, developed a uniform-looking Paraoakan with mottled feathers. They have also crossed the Paraoakan and banaba to come up with an all-black female hybrid. To make native chicken raising economical, they have come up with feeding recommendations using materials available in the farm like palay and corn byproducts. They also recommend the use of azolla and other forage crops as supplementary feeds.
To tap the niche markets for native chickens, serious entrepreneurs are needed to undertake projects that are run like honest-to-goodness businesses using the latest farming and marketing technologies from government and private sources.