In Africa, where imported frozen poultry is ubiquitous, several countries are trying to bring “bicycle chicken” back into fashion.
They mainly come from Brazil, the United States and even Europe. Frozen poultry is common on supermarket shelves, even more so since the early 2010s. It must be said that frozen meat has some advantages: it can be kept longer and, above all, is sold at a low price. Depending on the country, type of variety and origin, frozen poultry is sold between two and four times less expensive than fresh poultry. In Benin, frozen chicken has taken on a rather surprising name: it is called “morgue chicken”.
The term "morgue" is, of course, simply due to the appearance of the meat, as cold as corpses. But it could also relate to the African poultry market which, because of this type of poultry, has become moribund. About 2 million tons of frozen chicken are sold each year in Africa. This has considerably weakened local markets.
In some countries, frozen chicken alone accounts for almost all local consumption. In Ghana, in 2020, 90% of the chickens consumed were from Brazilian, European or American imports. In all, a fifth of the meat consumed in Africa comes from abroad.
More imports in Benin in 2025
This is enough to dampen the hopes of local poultry producers, who are now concentrating on the egg market, the meat market now being monopolized by foreign countries. Some states set up taxes that are far from dissuasive — despite the taxes, imported chicken remains much cheaper than local chicken. Others have decided to bet on local production, such as Senegal. Dakar had stopped imports at the time of the avian flu, in the mid-2000s. This allowed local producers to do well.
Benin, too, would like to see imports of “morgue chicken” drop. So much so that the government is considering banning imports of frozen chicken and eggs. The Minister of Agriculture, Gaston Dossouhoui, has just announced it on Monday. Of course, it will take time. But the process has started. "From December 31, 2024, no more eggs, no more frozen chicken will return to Benin," he said.
For Benin, it is now a question of betting on a sector in decline: that of the “chicken bicycle”. The Ministry of Agriculture has called on local producers to "revitalize (their) chicken coops because the market will demand it".
In Benin, if the economy is a major argument, it is also the health aspect that pushed the government to act in this direction. Poultry, particularly imported from Brazil, can be a source of disease. In these chickens, “we inject substances and it weighs, it swells. This is why we want to make the health revolution to produce what we ourselves eat and eat what we produce”, summarizes Gaston Dossouhoui.