Quail may soon be added to T&T’s cuisine.
The Faculty of Food and Agriculture at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine campus used its recent celebration of Eat Local Day to launch the Intensive Quail Production Unit.
The launch, held at the University’s Field Station in Valsayn, saw members of the public being educated about quail production and the benefits of rearing the bird, both for domestic and commercial use.
Professor Wayne Ganpat, Dean of the Faculty of Food and Agriculture, noted that there is a growing demand for local food.
“But can we feed them? Not only are we giving people an alternative to chicken but it is also ideal for entrepreneurs who want to get into food production and get fast returns,” Ganpat said.
“This, in turn, contributes to food security at the household level; for families who don’t have regular access or cannot afford other sources of protein,” Ganpat said.
The idea was born a couple months ago when he visited the Bahamas and got a first-hand experience of the many possibilities from quail rearing.
“It was, in fact, a banker who was rearing quail and he was even thinking about leaving his full-time job to go into this venture,” Ganpat said.
“He showed me how easy it was to rear the birds using simple wire meshing cages,” he explained.
Noting that the production system is one which also does not require much space, Ganpat said that the birds can be raised in rooms or around the home.
“You need about a one metre square for the cage-type system which will accommodate about 100 birds. Laying birds will require a little more space,” he said.
“Enterprise can be scaled up quickly; 100 birds could move to 1,000 birds in one year or less resulting in increased revenues. After the initial investment is paid off, then revenue increases and profits will increase,” Ganpat sad.
He said this venture can be done part time as care of 100 birds will require about one hour of casual work per day.
However, 1,000 birds will require a little more time.
“The birds are raised on broiler feed mostly with addition of local forages. No additives or antibiotics are necessary making it a healthier choice of meat.”
He said if the country is to truly carry out its diversification plan it must recognise that agriculture plays an important role.
“We are giving quail rearing as option for young entrepreneurs especially. There are endless possibilities in agriculture and we need to offer these options to them,” Ganpat added.
Agricultural economist Omardath Maharaj said amidst the efforts of the UWI to sustainably and consistently educate the national
taste bud about where their food comes from and how it is produced, the scenario has changed from promoting demand for local food to requiring urgent investigations of the supply capacity of T&T’s local food systems to sustain 1.3 million people.
“With the fading and outright disappearance of the economically and socially important rice, sugar, citrus, cocoa and coffee industries; the missing link in the on-going national conversation is an understanding of the true annual contribution of the local food and agriculture sector,” Maharaj said.
“This contribution far exceeds the limited contribution to GDP statistic, outside of estimates of commodity volumes traded at some of the Namdevco wholesale markets and the narrow pumpkin and bhaji rhetoric that masks the problems associated with the future of our food especially policy and investment,” he said.
He noted that quail meat is rich in micronutrients and a wide range of vitamins, adding that it is therefore recommended for people with high cholesterol levels and individuals who may want to maintain a low level of cholesterol.
“Research has revealed that, quail eggs are healthier than other eggs for human consumption. Unlike chicken eggs, quail eggs can be consumed by senior citizens because they are rich in choline (a chemical essential for brain function) and they have low cholesterol value,” Maharaj said.
“Other wider benefits associated with the intake of quail eggs include: treatment of anaemia, removal of toxins and heavy metals from the blood and strengthening of the immune system as well as heart muscle,” he explained.
He said there is currently a limited availability for quail meat locally which can be only bought in certain supermarkets and speciality shops.
“Although the typical consumer may perceive the entry of this food source as novel, our evolving foodie culture or broader migrant population in T&T may in fact be increasing and influencing demand where resources are already scarce but population demographic changes, climate change and diet change,” Maharaj said.
“All this prompts us to continuously rethink our perception of food and agriculture. We must also reach the understanding that the sector can only move forward through open consultation, collaboration and co-ordination,” he advised.
He added that the Faculty of Food and Agriculture commits to working with the wider food production sector, farmers and new entrepreneurs seeking to engage in quail production and other forms of food production, marketers in its promotion, and all other stakeholders in the agri-food value chain locally.
ESTIMATED COST FOR START-UP QUAIL PRODUCTION
PROVIDED BY UWI
Japanese Quail, also known as Coturnix
Estimated start-up cost for a 100 head production unit.
Deep litter unit =$2200 (preferred for laying of fertile eggs)
Intensive battery cage system = $4500 (for meat and infertile eggs)
Cost of bird
Chicks two weeks old chicks $20- $25 each
Economic life span and productivity
Meat birds will be ready in – 16-20 weeks and will have an average weight of 4-5 ounces (0.25-0.3lbs) of meat /bird
Laying birds – 2-21/2 years – 200-250 eggs /bird/ year
Average Cost of feed to produce 100 birds
$3200 in feed and other costs for meat birds (16 weeks)
Egg birds will lay for 21/2 years and will cost $7,000 per year
Sale of product
Meat—$125/lb (wholesale) (about 4 birds per lb.
Estimated revenue per production unit at 100 heads
Eggs—$25,000 in revenue / year
Figures are based on the current market prices in Trinidad and were verified with local quail farmers