Chicken a la King: U.S. Poultry makes a slow & steady recovery after a year of major setbacks

To mark the end of National Chicken Month, we take a look at how the U.S. poultry industry is making a slow and steady recovery following the widespread outbreak of High-Path Avian Flu (HPAI) in 2022 that devastated commercial flocks across the country.

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A plate of the popular American dish, Chicken a La King.

Adobe Stock

The current outlook for the U.S. Poultry industry is much brighter this year as we celebrate the end of National Chicken Month than it was this time in 2022 when the industry was reeling from the impacts of the High-Path Avian Flu (HPAI) among commercial poultry flocks across the United States.

Despite the devastating outbreak of HPAI last year — which, according to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, wiped out an estimated 58.8 million birds from 830 commercial and backyard flocks in 2022 and early 2023 — the poultry industry still managed to show some areas of growth last year.

BROILER PRODUCTION IS UP

Despite these serious setbacks in flock numbers, commercial broiler producers were actually able to increase their production from 2021 to 2022. And since there have not been any major HPAI cases reported in the U.S. thus far in 2023, that trend seems likely to continue in other areas of the poultry sector.

According to the current Poultry Industry Outlook from the USDA:

Total poultry sector sales in 2022 were $76.9 billion, an increase of 67 percent from 2021. Broiler sales increased 60 percent, turkey sales increased 21 percent, and egg sales increased 122 percent. Only broilers increased production from 2021. All three sectors were affected by increasing prices in 2022, with the egg and turkey sectors being particularly impacted by the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreak. Benchmark prices increased by 38.9 percent for broilers, 25.9 percent for turkeys, and 138.3 percent for eggs from 2021 to 2022.

EGG PRICES ARE DOWN

The entire poultry sector also saw a remarkable 67-percent increase in total sales, which equates to an industry value of $76.9 billion. No doubt this is some good news for poultry operations working hard to rebuild their flocks as other uncertainties, like a lapsing Farm Bill and a looming government shutdown, threaten means for agricultural aid and recovery programs.

Overall, poultry and egg prices experienced rampant inflation in 2022 due to HPAI, and eggs saw the highest year-over-year price increase of 138 percent of all. However, that concern is starting to wane now that egg prices are officially on their way down.

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor & Statistics’ Food Inflation Report for August 2023 did deliver some harsh blows in terms of consumer inflation, the poultry industry was able to deliver some relief. The data revealed that egg prices are down, with some regions experiencing double-digit decreases. On average, egg prices fell 2.5 percent since July, and retail prices are down 18 percent compared to the same time last year.

CHICKEN IS KING

Despite setbacks and premium prices on both domestic prices and American poultry exports in the last year, chicken remains the world’s most consumed animal protein—and according to USDA data, it will stay that way for at least the next decade.

According to the USDA: “From 2001 to 2021, global poultry imports have risen an average of 4 percent a year, reaching 14.2 million metric tons in 2021. USDA projects poultry imports to grow to 17.5 million metric tons by 2031. In comparison, pork imports are projected to increase to 14.8 million metric tons by 2031, and beef imports are expected to rise to 14.3 million metric tons.”

The United States is the second-largest global poultry exporter to Brazil. Yet, despite setbacks in 2022, the U.S. poultry industry increased exports by 14 percent. Domestic poultry is expected to lose some market share in the upcoming decade, but it remains a key figure in a much larger story —that is, a world that loves to eat chicken.

Marion is a digital content manager for RFD-TV and The Cowboy Channel. She started working for Rural Media Group in May 2022, bringing a decade of experience in the digital side of broadcast media as well as some professional cooking experience to the team.
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