836 views update:Jan 12, 2009

Smaller chickens

The financial crisis has an effect on the poultry market too. Nobody expected that it would not. Sales are down and expansion plans are kept on hold. The good news is that the poultry industry is part of the food chain and people need food and will not stop buying. The question however is will these consumers buy as much as before the crisis started or will they buy less, or will they buy the cheaper parts of the bird?

The answer to this question will differ per market. I do expect however that in general consumers will buy less meat, but this will go especially at the account of the more expensive meats like beef and pork. Poultry, being the cheapest of all, will also feel the effects and may see a change in demand in terms of frequency, quantity and quality.
The first signs were seen already before Christmas. Wholesalers in most parts of the world ordered smaller carcasses and cuts from smaller birds. During my visit to Thailand in December even the growers of traditional coloured broilers expressed that they too have a bigger demand for smaller birds than before.
The time for the heavy big birds seems to be over for a while and growers have to kill the birds at a younger age. When or if, whether, the market will return to demanding the heavy weight birds is in question. Consumers can eat only so much and do not fancy large lumps of meat of which they have to leave a certain volume uneaten. Wasting food is no longer an option, if it has ever been.
Some processors may still favour large big breasted broilers, but they too will experience the change in demand. Already a year ago a US poultry processor expressed that he had to take slices off the breast to meet the total weight for a set number of fillets demanded by the retailers. Will this be the start of a differentiation between growing broilers for the fresh meat market and the further processing market? Anyhow this tells me that there is never a dull moment in the poultry industry and it constantly has to reset its goals due to continuously changing consumer demands.

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