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November 20, 2010

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Home » Feature » Health and Environment

Wisdom of man who stares at chickens

TRADITIONAL Chinese health maintenance calls for eating eggs in autumn to replenish the energy and nutrition lost during summer and stay strong in winter.

Winter is also the time to eat eggs that are neutral in energy (neither yin or yang, cold or hot), so they are suitable for everyone.

A new egg center, Ben Yuan (The Source), recently opened in Shuyuan Town in the Pudong New Area offering fresh, high-quality fresh and safe eggs laid by free-range hens.

Director Pan Huijun, a chicken farmer, has been raising chickens for more than 20 years in the town near the East China Sea.

"I've been dealing with the clucking birds for decades and have developed my own way to raise them, using the methods that you can't find them from textbooks," says Pan.

His one-hectare farm (the biggest free-range chicken base in Pudong) produces around 200,000 food chickens a year; it has 40,000 egg-laying chickens. Each 10 hens has one rooster. Pan says he found the 10:1 system ideal because it separates roosters and keeps them from fighting.

"All are raised free-range in an environmentally friendly way," Pan says.

He has worked out his "homemade menu" for chicken feed which includes corn, bran, soybean pulp (after oil is extracted), carrots, various vitamins and nutrients, calcium and egg shell powder and grit to aid with digestion.

Cooking chickens eat more soybean pulp and corn but less bran than laying chickens.

"For egg layers, too much nutrition is no good. They will grow too fat, which reduces egg quality and quantity and makes them vulnerable to disease," says Pan.

Free-range chicken are better than those raised in hen houses because they get adequate physical exercise in a low-stress environment. Free-range raising also helps cooking chickens develop bigger and tighter muscles and helps egg layers produce eggs with higher protein content. Exercise also boosts immunity.

Every spring and autumn Pan travels to mountainous regions in Yunnan Province to buy egg layers and to the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region to buy cooking chickens.

"Yunnan chickens have five toes, one more than the common type," says Pan. "And I've found that unlike Shanghainese, Xinjiang people prefer to eat rooster, so hens there are quite cheap."

The farmer has also discovered that one week in the life of a chicken is equivalent to a year of human life. "A 24-week-old hen starts to lay eggs, like a women having a baby when she is 24 years old, her golden age," says Pan.

"But a 72-week-old hen stops laying eggs and this type of old hen is beloved by Shanghai locals who cook it and make soup for pregnant women and people with ailments.

"This doesn't come from any textbook, but my own experience," he adds.


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