The long running question of which came first, the chicken or the egg, has long been settled by locals in the municipality of San Jose in Batangas. Depending on where one is said to come from, the chicken came first when entering the town from Batangas City. Or it’s the egg, when entering the town from Lipa. Beyond the running joke, these two monuments at both boundaries have heralded the importance of San Jose as the egg basket of the Philippines, highlighting the poultry industry in Batangas.
In 2011, statistics from the Department of Agriculture indicate that the municipality has an estimated five million layers producing an egg daily. When the Visayas’s own egg basket in Bantayan Island suffered a hit from Typhoon Yolanda in 2013, San Jose’s eggs found their way down south. This averted a crisis that was hovering over much of many Bisaya’s plates.
Leading the poultry industry in Batangas
Much of the municipality’s poultry industry is geared for egg production. For entrepreneurs like the husband and wife team of Raul and Lulu Lacorte, proprietors of Lulu Lacorte’s Poultry which started in 2007, prefers taking the shorter route of buying 16 week old layers than rearing them from chicks. Although one of several small scale players amongst bigger ones with over a hundred thousand heads or more, it helps fill a demand locally. Their eggs reach as far as Cavite City and Metro Manila.
Raul says that his poultry is capital intensive at first. But an efficient system, perfected from years of experience as well as improvements from the availability of stable electricity from the local electric cooperative has benefited his business in the long term. This has ensured that capital expenditures are paid off in two years and owners start earning in the succeeding years. It also helps that layers in their 17th or 18th weeks start to lay eggs. In Raul’s words, “the chicken will start working for you every day and in the next two and a half years.”
A typical day at the poultry
The day starts at 4 AM when the lights of Raul’s two elevated poultry buildings are switched. The flood of lights mimics daylight and goad the avian denizens to work. Within these two structures, a total of 8,000 hens lay an average of 7,200 eggs daily.
The structures are built with good ventilation ensuring that the chickens have good living conditions and efficiently produce eggs. The chicken cages are built higher, at the second level. Between the cages and the ground are driers which capture organic waste and aerates these materials. At the edges of these structures are nets which are pulled down when it rains.
Each cage has a partition that houses four chickens of different ages. This ensures that when cull time comes, production still continues. A feeds trough runs the span of the cages. While a tap and drink water system with an electric pump ensures water is not wasted due to evaporation or spillage. Eggs are collected manually by assigned staff who also spreads the feeds at periodic times of the day. Lights are then turned off at 9 PM.
The provinces of Pampanga, Bulacan and Tarlac have upped their egg production thus becoming strong competitors. But the municipality of San Jose continues to lead the poultry industry in Batangas. It has never wavered in her big role of meeting the province’s and country’s daily need for eggs.
This article originally photographed and written for a book project in 2017.