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French Frozen Poultry Industry Stands To Profit from Mad Cow Disease Scare.

So far, the preferred alternative to beef is seafood, and Belgian dioxin scare makes consumers wary of poultry. But poultry processors are fighting to win them over.

As the spectre of mad cow disease hangs over France, are consumers turning to poultry? The overwhelming favorite as an alternative to red meat is seafood, which is well stocked in retail outlets selling frozens.

Nevertheless, frozen poultry items are beginning to make inroads in French hypermarkets, supermarkets, and especially freezer centers. That is despite public anxiety over a dioxin incident in Belgium a year or so ago that didn't even affect French poultry.

In hypers and supers, but also in Monoprix/Prisunic general merchandise stores, poultry generally appears only as an ingredient in prepared dishes or as a quick-to-prepare, quick-to-eat item. The types of products in which chicken is most likely to be found are low-calorie meals and foreign dishes.

Monoprix has brought out a line of foreign dishes under a new private label, Monoprix Exotique. The range offers at least five chicken recipes, including Soupe Vietnamienne au Poulet et aux Crevettes -- Vietnamese Soup with Chicken and Prawns (two individual bowls per 530g pack); Sweet & Sour Chicken and Rice from China (360g single portion); and Poulet Korma et Riz.

"In the recipe for Korma chicken, the freshness of cream and yogurt, the smooth flavor of coconut, marry spicy flavors of India," reads package copy for the last-mentioned item. Chicken in sauce makes up 64% of the ingredients, with white chicken meat accounting for 26.1%, while long-grained white rice with cumin and turmeric make up the remaining 36%. The product sells for FFr 23.50.

The prepared dishes generally require little cooking, a characteristic that la Toque de France carries to extreme in Emince de poulet et son duo de riz. The recipe is composed of pieces of chicken (28%), long-grained white rice (28%), fresh cream, red peppers, peas, corn, raspberry vinegar, soy sprouts, oats, barley, sunflower oil, herbs and spices. It is part of a series Les Assiettes Estivales.

These "summer dishes" -- which come complete with knife and fork -- are designed for consumption at the beach, during a picnic, on hikes, or in the office. The chicken and rice can be eaten cold as a refreshing salad four hours after being taken from the freezer, warm as a "salade gourmande" after being heated in a microwave for two or three minutes, or hot after three or four minutes in the microwave.

Like Emince de poulet, the typical chicken-based prepared dish is likely to feature chicken and rice and to be sold in a single portion or in a package containing two individual servings. However, larger-quantity items, often portionable and in sacks, are on the market. The only chicken dish at a Casino supermarket surveyed by this reporter was the portionable Poulet a l'Indienne, one of the Saveum d'Ailleurs (Flayom from Other Places) under the chain's private label. It weighs 900 grams, serves three to four people, and costs 25.75 francs.

On the low-calorie side, Weight Watchers offers Emince de Dinde au Curry (Thin Slices of Turkey with Curry), 2 Poulet Provencale with Grilled Eggplant, and Poulet Fermier (Free-ranging Chicken), white meat with macaroni and mushrooms. The dishes are made in France for Weight Watchers Food France.

Maggi, the brand that Nestle has been using for frozen dishes since it sold the Findus label, now includes as "Findus recipes" the Cuisine Legere (light cooking) line. Among its offerings is Couscous de Poulet Cuisine aux Cinq legumes. The vegetables are squash, carrots, turnips, celery, and onions.

The Destination Saveurs line, sold at Carrefour hypermarkets among other outlets, is produced by Interdis. The range includes six recipes with chicken and one with duck. The duck is Canard a la Sauce Aigre Douce et Riz Parfume (Duck with Sweet & Sour Sauce and Flavored Rice), a Chinese recipe (360 grams for 19.95 francs). Two of the chicken recipes are Poulet aux Champignons Noirs et Riz Cantonais (Chicken with Black Mushrooms and Canton Rice) and Moroccan-flavored Tajine de Poulet aux Olives et au Citron (Chicken Tajine with Olives and Lemon, 600 grams serving two people for 33.50 francs). American-style "pre-cooked" Chicken Wings come in 360g packs.

Brand name Marie, now owned by Unigate, offers a Poulet Basquaise et Riz, browned white mere (14%), rice (37%), and peppers, onions and tomatoes. The mixture weighs 800 grams, serves four, and can be cooked in a frying pan in seven minutes.

Maggi, apparently in a move away from red meat that now reveals considerable forethought, hits presented as its first line of new recipes -- as opposed to dishes bearing the Maggi label but marked "Findus recipe," l'Assiette des Gourmands, composed of three fish items and three chicken items. The range breaks the bond between chicken and dee.

Instead, featured dishes are Filet de Dinde Roti au jus et sa Puree saveur a l'ancienne (Slice of Turkey, roasted in juice and its [potato] puree with old-fashioned flavor); Aiguilletes de Poulet, Sauce Moutarde Tagliatelles, aux tomates confites (Pieces of Chicken, Mustard Sauce, Tagliatelles, with cooked tomatoes); and Couscous, Aiguilettes de Poulet et merguez (Coucous, Pieces of Chicken and Sausage).

Each box contains a single portion on microwave-safe plate. A major television campaign promoted the launch last Oct. 30-Nov. 12. Peel-off coupons are good for a three-franc reduction at the crash register. The dishes weigh 350 grams and cost 19.90 to 27.90 francs.

In the category of quick-to-prepare, simple-to-eat poultry products are chicken nuggets, beignets (fritters), Cordon Bleu (a breaded poultry patty filled with slices of ham and cheese), and Heinz Chicken Party. A new recipe for Cordon Bleu with chicken has appeared under the Iglo label.

During the weekend of November 25, in the midst of the mad cow crisis, an end cap in the Auchan supermarket in Caluire featured storebrand chicken fritters and Cordons Bleu au Dinde (turkey). Shoppers could buy three boxes of either for the price of two -- 600g of product for 19.90 francs.

The same retailer offered packages of 20 Nuggets of breaded white chicken meat from Gastronome. The 400g box included curry sauce and barbecue sauce, weighed 400g, and cost 24.15 francs. A French teenager interviewed by Quick Frozen foods International said that chicken nuggets are the only frozen chicken item that her family buys.

Heinz Chicken Party consists of 12 to 17 chicken legs to a 575g bag. The meat has been spiced, marinated and roasted "by a traditional method" so that the skin is crispy. Also included are "authentic Heinz American ketchup" and "the inimitable Heinz barbecue sauce." The chicken itself is produced in France by H. J. Heinz France of Paris. But, emphasizing the American connection, the front of the box reads, "Made under authority of H. J. Heinz Co. Pittsburgh -- USA."

The range of poultry products in freezer centers is much broader than that in the more general chains. Prepared dishes are more varied and include gourmet items. In its "Grand Saveurs" (Great Flavors) series, Thiriet includes the traditional French favorite, Coq au Vin, here Coq au Vin de Bourgogne. The 560g box contains two film-covered mbs, each with two pieces of chicken.

The dominant ingredient is chicken legs and thighs (50%); next in importance is red Burgundy wine (16%). Small onions (grelots), pieces of pork, and mushrooms also contribute to the flavor (1.5% each). The cooking is simple: heat the covered mbs in boiling water or, pierced, in a microwave oven. The sauce is rich and the chicken tender.

Chicken is just beginning to show up in recipes that traditionally use other types of "meat." This reporter found two chicken lasagnes, one from Thiriet and one, marked "new," from Picard. In the latter lasagna, the vegetables and the chicken are of almost equal importance; red peppers 14%, chicken 13%, eggplant 11%. The dish also contains semolina, onions, flesh cream, and eggs. A box of 400 grams serves one person.

Poultry appears in a few puff pastries to be served as appetizers. Picard sells a package of 2 feuilletes volaille et morilles (puff pastry with poultry and mushrooms). Thiriet offers a new 2 Coffrets feuilletes pintade et fricassee de girolles (two puff pastries in the shape of lidded containers, with guinea-fowl with fricassee of chanterelle mushrooms). The latter, in a 220g box, costs FFr 57.90. The pastries need to be cooked. The birds constitute 32% of the appetizer; mushrooms 10%.

At the same price, Thiriet also markets another new recipe consisting of 2 Coffrets feuilletes bloc de foie gras de canard et compotee de figues au porto (puff pastries with foie gras from ducks and with stewed figs in port wine).

Freezer centers, like more mainstream stores, also sell simple-to-eat chicken items: the Cordon Bleu, Nuggets, IQF pieces for snacking. Picard makes chicken wings glamorous in Manchons de Poulet Rotis, one of its selections of the month for November: The catalog reads, "The `manchon' is a part, of file wing of the chicken. Marinated, cooked and roasted, you will appreciate these little mouthfuls, ideal for nibbling or the cocktail hour." A box weighing 450 grams was featured at FFr 21.90.

Unlike supermarkets and hypermarkets, however, freezer centers also sell frozen whole chicken and turkey, stuffed or plain. Thiriet, for instance, offers from Maitre Coq a Poulet farci a la forestiere (stuffed chicken in forest style, which includes forest mushrooms). The bones are partially removed and the bird bound, ready for cooking. The cost is 59.90 francs per kilo for a bird of about 1.4 kilos.

Whole chicken or turkey may metamorphose into an elaborate roll. Among Thiriet's offerings is Fondant de Poulet en croute, white meat surrounded by stuffing of mushrooms and poultry-liver mousse in a puffed pastry crust, shaped like a fat log. The item weighs 1,500 grams, serves eight people, and costs i26 francs. Despite such gourmet products, employees of the chains told QFFI that natural whole chicken sells better than stuffed chicken, and pieces of chicken better than whole chicken. The best selling items in a Picard at Lyon are thighs, followed by escalopes, and then plain whole chickens.

The freezer centers sell chicken and turkey parts plain, to be used in dishes that the consumer will prepare, and also stuffed and ready to heat. Thiriet shelves alongside its whole birds, Filet de dindonneau farci aux girolles et a l'Armagnac, for instance. (Filet of turkey poulet stuffed with chanterelle mushrooms and with Armagnac) and chicken thighs stuffed with mushrooms. Picard presents as a new item Supreme de dinde farci, strips of turkey stuffed with grapes, pistachios, and forest mushrooms -- 118 francs for 1.8 kg.

A French friend of tiffs reporter who is an excellent cook recommends Picard's Aiguillettes de dinde au curry (pieces of turkey with curry). The Aiguillettes are very easy to use, because they come marinated and cooked. They are packed in a sauce in a plastic sack. As many as desired can simply be heated for eight to ten minutes in a flying pan in a little oil, although they can also be cooked in a traditional oven or in a microwave. The package weighs 540 grams.

When it comes to whole and cutup chicken and turkey, the source of the poultry sets off one product from another as much as do the accompaniments or lack of them. Labels on packaging at the freezer centers are likely to refer to organizations that certify the background and quality of poultry. Label Rouge may be the most prominent.

Packaging may also state that the birds have not been fed on animal products and that they have been raised in the open air. A new item at Thiriet, for instance, is cock cut tip for "coq au yin," from Sebastien de Kerdour. The Thiriet catalog and the package note that the bird was raised on 100% plant food supplemented with vitamins and minerals. Packages may state the percentage of grains among the plant food.

Organic poultry is prized. Picard offers organic, free-ranging black chicken, which a French housewife told us are excellent. These chickens are sold whole, 52 francs a kilo; as escalopes, 145 francs a kilo; and as thighs, FFr 74.50.

To a visitor to France the most remarkable feature of frozen poultry may be the variety of birds on sale in the freezer centers. Duck is almost as common as turkey and chicken and conies in as many forms: appetizers, prepared dishes, whole and cut up birds, stuffed and unstuffed. Guinea-fowl are also quite common, and quail are on the menu.

In fact, the most unusual presentation that QFFI found was four cailies (quail), ready to cook, at Picard. Covered in shrink wrap, the birds were ranged on a styrofoam base, backs up; between the backs were their heads complete with eyes, beaks, and feathers. The quail came from Charles Robin SA and cost 34,50 for 600 grams.

Hen pheasant, ready to cook, from the United Kingdom, 46 francs for 600 Cockerel, at 16 francs for 450 is also available at Picard.

Both Picard and Thiriet offer two pigeons ramiers (wood pigeons) from the UK. The package at Thiriet pictures, on all sides, a forest. The dark brown backs of two shrink-wrapped birds. These visible through windows on the top. On the 450g package is a warning that the birds may contain shot, plus two "gastronomique" recipes for using the birds. These "products of the forest," packed by Ulysse in Vitry-sur-Seine, retail for FFr 28.50.

The average French consumer does not buy frozen poultry as such, although he or she may on occasion purchase a frozen dish containing chicken. Consumers buy fish that has been frozen at sea, because they regard it ms fresher than unfrozen fish that has been trucked to market. They do not consider frozen poultry, to be fresher than unfrozen poultry, however, and they may not even buy poultry at all.

The appearance of dioxins in poultry in Belgium last year gave French consumers a scare that has yet to completely fade. One shopper told QFFI that she did not trust chicken, because dioxins had been found in chicken in Belgium and France. It was guilt by association. The dioxins did not actually appear across the border, but had their impact. Furthermore, cows have more in common with poultry than with fish, including the consumption of animal-based feeds. Therefore, some consumers may worry about chicken in relation to mad cow disease.

The European Union is considering braining animal-based feeds for consumption by poultry as well as by cattle, a move that might help shore up confidence in poultry. If the producers of chicken products can induce the hypermarkets and supermarkets to stock -- and consumers to buy -- more of their poultry products now found only in freezer centers, the poultry industry will have a bright future in frozens.

Water Treatment Partnership Joins Meyn and Nijhuis Units

A joint venture in supplying waste water treatment technology to poultry processing and other food processing plants has been announced by Meyn Machinefabriek B.V. and Nijhuis Technology.

Pressure in the food industry to increase production and profits, the companies observed in a joint statement, "inevitably places greater demands on the expertise and opportunities of suppliers of water purification systems."

The "close and wide-ranging partnership" between the two companies, a Meyn spokesman said, will combine the "specialized knowledge and many years of experience that Meyn has in these sectors with the very broad technological expertise and experience at Nijhuis."

For further details, contact Meyn at PO. Box 16, 1510AA Oostzaan, the Netherlands; telephone: 31-75-684-3355; fax: 31-75-684-4150; e-mail
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Comment:French Frozen Poultry Industry Stands To Profit from Mad Cow Disease Scare.
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Jan 1, 2001
Previous Article:Sales Steady But Profits Dip As Frosta Faces Strong Competition.
Next Article:`Mad Cow' Fears Stampede Through France; Other Countries Boycotting French Beef.

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