|Livestock Research for Rural Development 23 (11) 2011||Guide for preparation of papers||LRRD Newsletter||
Citation of this paper
The high price of local chickens, which almost triples the price of the exotic chickens, has raised concern among chicken consumers in Kampala. A study was therefore conducted to identify consumers’ tastes and preferences that could be contributing to the continuously rising prices of local chickens in Kampala city markets. One hundred and sixty chicken consumers, twenty five chicken traders and twenty five restaurant managers were interviewed.
The study established that about 80% of chicken consumers prefer local chicken meat to that of the exotic chicken strains. Gender, level of education and residence during childhood of the consumers hardly had any influence on their preferences. Preference for local chicken meat was based on the perceived taste, toughness and freedom from chemical contaminants. Most of the consumers were suspicious about the safety of broiler chicken meat. Generally, consumers perceived local chicken to be the tastiest and safest of all other chicken meats on the market. Consumers’ preference for local chicken indicates a potential niche for the local Ugandan chicken in the Kampala meat market. Sensitization of farmers on the proper use of drugs followed by assurance to the general public on the safety of exotic chicken meats could improve peoples’ perceptions about exotic chicken meat.
Key words: consumers, Kampala, poultry, preference
Improvements in per capita income, rural-urban migration, and low supply of fish have all contributed to the increase in consumption of poultry products (Sserwaniko 2009). There are three types of meat chickens on the Kampala market: broilers, spent hens (locally referred to as off layers) and indigenous (local) chickens. Consumer preference for any of these birds varies from one individual to another. Although the high yielding exotic chickens were introduced in Uganda over 50 years ago, indigenous chickens have remained important in the diets of many Ugandans. On the Kampala chicken market, the price of local chickens almost triples that of exotic chickens (Emuron et al 2010). The low supply of local chickens may not fully explain consumers’ willingness to pay more money for these birds when there are alternatives on the same market.
Tastes and preferences for food products vary greatly from one individual to another. Consumers’ tastes and preferences are determined by several factors. Some of these factors may be related to chicken meat quality while others are inherent in the individual consumer’s personality. Production factors such as age, sex, genotype, diet and stocking density, method of slaughter, and post-slaughter factors such as cooking method may affect poultry meat texture and favour (Farmer 1999, Northcutt 2009). These either affect the composition of raw meat or the progress of flavour forming reactions during cooking.
Flavour is a quality attribute that consumers use to determine the acceptability of poultry meat (Northcutt 2009). It is a combination of the sensations perceived by the two chemical senses of taste and smell. The taste of a given food is perceived by taste buds on the tongue which detects mainly four principle tastes: sweet, sour/acid, salt and bitter and the sense of smell detects certain chemicals which stimulate the olfactory receptors at the top of the nasal cavity (Farmer 1999). The present study was conducted to determine factors that influence consumers’ preferences of chicken meat as well as quality attributes that consumers in Kampala city attach to the chicken meat of their preference.
A survey was done in two of the five divisions of Kampala district. A pre-tested structured questionnaire was used. The targeted group comprised of consumers inside and outside public eating places. Restaurants and pubs were randomly selected from the list obtained from Kampala City Council. A systematic sampling technique was used to select the restaurants and pubs. Every nth address was selected from the list until a desired number of restaurants or pubs were chosen. The nth address was obtained by dividing the number of listed restaurants or pubs by ten. A total of 10 restaurants and 10 pubs were selected for the study. At each of the selected restaurant or pub, four respondents (two males and two females) found eating chicken inside the eating place and any four chicken consumers found within the vicinity of the eating place were randomly chosen for an interview. This made a total of eighty respondents inside and eighty respondents outside the eating places. Gender balance was put into consideration by ensuring equal number of female and male respondents to capture any difference in preference between sexes. Interviews with restaurant and pub managers at the selected eating places preceded consumer interviews. In addition, twenty chicken traders were interviewed.
Eighty percent of the chicken consumers preferred local chicken meat to that from the exotic strains (Figure 1). Gender of the consumers did not have an influence on their preferences for chicken meat. Similarly, place of residence during childhood did not have any influence on the consumers’ preference for local and broiler chicken meat (Figure 2). However, meat from spent hens was mainly preferred by consumers who spent their childhood in urban areas.
Figure 1. Consumers’ preference as affected by gender
Figure 2. Consumers’ preference as affected by place of residence during childhood
Most of the consumers who preferred local chicken meat had not changed their preference with advancing age. The few who had changed their preferences said that this was due to lack of exposure to exotic chicken meats during their childhood. The high prices of local chickens, made some consumers opt for cheaper chicken types (broilers and off-layers) against their preferences. Local chicken meat was preferred stewed while broiler meat was preferred roasted or deep fried. Memon et al (2009) reported that most of the consumers in Hyderabad district in Southern India preferred broiler chicken meat when it is fried. Consumers said that when broiler chicken meat is prepared in their local ways (stewing and steaming), it loses its texture. This was the main reason limiting the preference for broiler chicken meat. Level of education did not influence consumers’ preference of chicken meat. In New Zealand Ni Mhurchu et al (2010) found that nutrition education had no effect on food purchases but rather the food price was considered more important. Taylor et al (2008) have observed that increased knowledge about a product by consumers through educating them does not change consumer beliefs and self assessments, which determines their preferences. This implies that consumer beliefs and preferences may not be altered no matter the level of education attained by the consumers.
Preference for local chicken meat was mainly due to perceived good taste, toughness and freedom from chemical contaminants (Figure 3). Consumers who preferred local chicken thought that meat from exotic chickens is loaded with residues of poultry drugs and other dietary chemicals. Animal welfare, health, safety, biodiversity and attention to environment have been described as intangible attributes of chicken meat (Castellini et al 2008) which attract only the high-involvement consumers.
Figure 3. Reasons for consumers' preference for local chicken meat
as influenced by residence during childhood
The main reason for preference of local chicken was its perceived good taste. Consumers of rural background were mainly concerned about the taste, texture, safety and “naturalness” of chicken meat while those of the urban background were mainly interested in the taste of local chicken. Most consumers of urban background were not concerned about meat safety. In Uganda, consumers of rural background are generally choosy and suspicious of the safety of new food products. Many of the rural consumers think that exotic chickens are genetically modified and /or are fed on drugs to increase their performance. Gender and level of education did not have any influence on the reasons for consumers’ preference for local chicken meat. However, traders and restaurant managers differed in their reasons for preferring spent hen and broiler chicken meats. The reasons given by restaurant managers for preference of broiler chicken meat were based on the ease to cook and the birds’ big body size. Restaurant managers added that broiler chicken meat can be cooked in many ways such as deep-frying, grilling, and roasting which are not appropriate for local and spent hen chicken meats. These cooking methods require special equipment and skills which are mostly possessed by restaurant managers compared to chicken traders who are not involved in food preparation. Jahan et al (2005) found that organic chicken meat was generally firmer and strongly flavored than broiler chicken meat. Similarly, Touraille et al (1981) reported a significant increase in the intensity of flavor of breast and thigh meat from chickens of slower growth rates when compared at the same body weight with the fast growing chickens but at different ages.
Consumers described local chicken meat as being ‘natural’, implying that the birds grow in a natural environment with no chemicals fed to them and that they are not genetically manipulated. Some consumers speculated that the chemicals administered to exotic chickens could have negative effects on human health. Similar attitudes were also expressed by British consumers for organic chicken (McEachern and Seaman 2005) where consumers were concerned about the practice of feeding chickens with genetically modified feedstuffs.
The study also revealed that about 43% of the consumers prefer the leg (thigh and drumstick) of a chicken to any other parts, while 16.3% preferred the breast. The main reason for preference of these chicken parts was their relative fleshiness. Approximately 24% of the consumers preferred the back, and 14.4% preferred the wings, mainly due to the perceived good taste associated with bony meat. Drewnowski (1997) reported that taste preferences and food choices are shaped by prior experience and associative learning. Gary (1996) found that even though the price may alter consumers’ preferences, the choice of food by consumers greatly depends on childhood, social interactions and social influences. In the present study, this hardly had any significant influence on the tastes of consumers who had an urban background even if ease of acquisition and exposure to a food item are thought to be strong factors in determining taste preferences (Garland and Carthy 2010).
The quality of organic chicken meat is greatly determined by the physical activity and pasture intake during production and the age of chickens at slaughter (Castellini et al 2002). According to Castellini et al (2002) and Lewis et al (1997), organically produced poultry meat was found to be leaner compared to conventionally produced chicken meats. The main concern for age was associated with meat texture. However, the sex of the chickens may also affect the texture of meat since meat from male chickens is said to be more tender compared to the meat from female chickens (Musa et al 2006).
When asked what they would base on for selection if dressed local chicken was available on the market, 78% of the consumers ranked yellow skin colour highest. Next in ranking was carcass size. In USA Fletcher (2002) reported that the appearance of chicken meat greatly influences choices of consumers. The yellow colour of subcutaneous fat can be imparted in chickens by feeding diets enriched with carotenoid pigments. Even though the yellow color can be imparted through feeding, Jonas et al (2008) stressed that the yellow skin is related to an allele making the potential to deposit the yellow carotenoids in the skin genetic, to some extent.
Of the three types of chicken meats found on the market in Uganda, local chicken meat is the most preferred. Local chicken is perceived to be tastier than the exotic counterparts. The conditions under which chickens are reared are thought to be the major determinants for quality attributes and safety of their meat. Level of education, consumers’ gender and residence during childhood do not have any influence on consumer tastes for chicken meat. Consumers’ tastes and preferences of chicken meat are based on perceived taste, meat texture and ‘naturalness’ in the management of the birds. Consumers’ preference for local chicken indicates a potential niche for the local Ugandan chicken in the Kampala meat market.
This work is an output of a research project funded by Carnegie Corporation of New York, through School of Graduate Studies, Makerere University.
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Received 1 October 2011; Accepted 22 October 2011; Published 4 November 2011
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