Astral honours poultry industry legend Cliff Saunders

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Astral honoured poultry industry legend Cliff Saunders by naming their newest and biggest boardroom after him. From left is Chris Schutte, CEO of Astral, and Cliff Saunders, who was responsible for modernising the industry.

Astral honoured poultry industry legend Cliff Saunders for the paradigm shift he catalysed in the industry. Saunders, now 83 years old, was a young role-player in the industry who implemented numerous innovations and technologies, many of which are still in use today. For this reason, Astral decided to name their new boardroom after the legend himself. The Cliff Saunders boardroom was inaugurated on 23 January at the Astral offices at the Lanseria Corporate Park Estate.

Making of a legend

Saunders comes from a family of poultrymen and began his career in the table egg industry. Saunders especially left his mark in the table egg industry and as South Africa’s leading integrated poultry producer, Astral saw it fit to honour his career that spanned half a century. The innovations and technology that Saunders introduced transformed the poultry industry from one that was dominated by smallholder farmers to a fully-fledged commercial industry that competes with global standards. Some of the integral changes he introduced include:

  • Multiple bird cages.
  • All-in-all out flocks.
  • Light tight housing for layer replacement pullets.
  • Automatic egg grading systems.
  • Corrugated egg cartons.
  • Returnable egg trolleys in supermarkets.
  • Shrinkwrap of 18 and 30 egg trays.
  • High-rise layer houses.
  • Spent hen handling and sales.

Saunders headed a host of large companies in the industry before retiring to consult internationally. He also served on many industry bodies such as the World Poultry Science Association (WPSA) the Egg Board and the Maize Board. Furthermore, he played an integral part in pushing for the legalisation of importing poultry genetics. 

Leaving a legacy

 “Cliff Saunders, a well-known figure in the South African poultry industry who is regarded by many as the doyen of commercial poultry and egg production in this country, is hereby recognised for his legendary contribution to our industry. Astral is privileged to honour Saunders, owing much of its successful history to a man that laid the foundation to a significant industry in our country’s agricultural landscape,” says Chris Schutte, CEO of Astral.

Despite the impact that Saunders had on the industry he remains humble and grateful for the recognition. “I am humbled to reflect that two PhDs and three CEOs of listed companies were part of the young team that I led,” Saunders said. He attributed his tenacity and drive to keep improving to the fact that he had humble beginnings on a farm in the Groot Marico area where every day was a workday, no matter what the circumstances. – Ursula Human, AgriOrbit