Chicken feet demand from Asia sees WA producer step up to supply 10,000kg each week

Up to 60 per cent of China’s annual chicken imports are made up solely of feet, and in a Western Australian first, one southern poultry producer will soon export thousands of kilograms of paws weekly into Asia.

In Australia, chicken feet have long been considered a waste product.

Across Asia, however, in places like Hong Kong, Singapore, and China, they are eaten everywhere from banquet halls to street stalls.

“The market is absolutely massive,” said Adam Laitt, Mt Barker Chicken’s general manager of business development.

Quality over quantity

Mr Laitt said that WA producers do not have the capacity to supply the “millions of tonnes” the Asian markets demand, but instead of wholesale frozen chicken legs they could offer a “premium chilled retail product”.

Dome shaped chicken coops in a line as the sun rises at Fox River establishment
Dome shaped chicken coops in Mount Barker.(ABC Rural: Tyne Logan)

“I almost can’t believe that I’m saying it, but free-range chicken feet [from Western Australia] is something that we think has got lots of potential,” he said.

The company will export roughly 10,000 kilograms of feet each week to customers in Hong Kong and Singapore.

The entry into this new market has been assisted by a State Government grant under the Value Add Agribusiness Investment Attraction Fund, providing $200,000 towards the $600,000 expansion needed.

“With that we’re going to build the processing area at our facility in Kendenup. It will be ready in four to six months,” Mr Laitt said.

It is expected the expansion will create five to 10 jobs.

An acquired taste

As for his own preferences when it comes to chicken feet, Mr Laitt said he is yet to acquire a taste for them.

“It’s one of the first things that Asian customers up in Hong Kong and Singapore do is test you out by feeding you chicken feet,” Mr Laitt said.

Chicken feet in a bamboo steamer
Almost two thirds of all chicken meat imported into China worldwide are chicken feet.(Commons: Takeaway)

Nevertheless, he still holds a small hope that the Asian love of chicken feet might be adopted here in Australia also.

“It wasn’t that long ago that no one in Australia would even eat the wings,” Mr Laitt said.

“And that ‘Masterchef effect’ has sort of led to the point that we’d love to have four-winged chickens. So you never know.”

Image credit – Considered waste in Australia, millions of chicken feet are sold to customers throughout Asia.(Supplied: Lara Bakewell)

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