Archive for May, 2010

Competition in Broiler Sector Benefits Chicken Farmers, Companies, and Consumers, Study Finds

May 19, 2010

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Wednesday, May 19, 2010

WASHINGTON, DC – May 19, 2010 — Competition is alive and well in the broiler chicken industry and benefits chicken farmers, poultry companies, and consumers, according to a study of the industry released here today.

“On the national scale, it is the overall conclusion of this study that the chicken industry is a competitive and thriving sector,” wrote Dr. Thomas Elam, an agricultural economist and president of FarmEcon LLC. “Intense competition among chicken companies leads to product innovation and lower prices for consumers. The vertically integrated structure of the industry has given it an advantage compared to its competitors and allowed it to respond quickly to changing consumer demand.”

Elam’s study was commissioned by the National Chicken Council and released in preparation for a workshop on competition in agriculture to be held Friday at Alabama A&M University in Normal, Alabama, by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The study is posted to the web site http://www.nationalchickencouncil.com

The vertically integrated system, in which a single company owns or controls virtually all phases of the operation, also benefits the independent family farmers who raise chickens under contracts with the companies, Elam wrote.

“Contract growers are insulated from integrator margin risk by fixed price contract terms. They receive payments that are not tied to market variations in prices of chicken and feed,” the study said. “These risks are largely shifted to the integrator, who absorbs the financial losses from adverse weather, general disease outbreaks, feed quality, and other factors potentially adversely affecting live chicken performance.”

As to whether contract growers are satisfied with the system, a study by the Farmers’ Legal Action Group found that 75 percent of broiler growers surveyed were satisfied with their decision to go into broiler growing, Elam noted. He also pointed out that many chicken companies have waiting lists of people who want to become contract growers, and lists of farmers already in the business who want to expand their operations. This shows that growers can earn a good return on their investments, Elam wrote.

“If, in general, growers were chronically earning less than a competitive return on their investment and labor, these waiting lists would likely not exist,” he noted.

Production and consumption of chicken has grown almost every year since the 1960’s, Elam noted, as consumer tastes changed, new markets emerged, and new products were developed, and chicken companies have achieved a strong competitive position with respect to other meats.

“Contract chicken growers have historically been able to expand their businesses as chicken production has grown, and have had the opportunity to share in the financial success of the entire sector,” he wrote.

The broiler chicken industry (broilers are chicken that are raised for their meat rather than for eggs) is more concentrated today than it has been in the past, Elam wrote, with the top four companies having 53 percent of production in 2009 compared to 40 percent in 1992. He noted, however, that the chicken industry is less concentrated than meatpacking at 79 percent or pork processing at 65 percent.

Wholesale and retail chicken prices, adjusted for inflation, have declined relative to overall consumer prices and major competing meats, the study said.

“The declining real prices of retail and wholesale chicken are evidence that real cost savings are being passed on to consumers via market competition,” the study said.

“Vertical integration has proven to be a very successful and cost competitive method to organize chicken production and marketing,” the study said. “As a result, the success of vertically integrated chicken production in the U.S. has spread to the global chicken sector.” Chicken producers around the world have adopted vertical integration in order to compete more effectively, the study said.

The full text of the study is posted to the web site http://www.nationalchickencouncil.com

The National Chicken Council represents integrated chicken producer-processors, the companies that produce and process chickens. Member companies of NCC account for approximately 95 percent of the chicken sold in the United States.

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NCC comment on new Salmonella and Campylobacter performance standards

May 10, 2010

The National Chicken Council released the following comment today on the announcement by the USDA Food Safety & Inspection Service of new performance standards for Salmonella and Campylobacter on raw chickens at the processing plant level:

“Food safety is the highest concern of the broiler chicken industry, and the industry will continue to work to improve the microbiological profile of raw chicken. The new Salmonella and Campylobacter performance standards are generally consistent with industry performance in recent years. However, it should be noted that the suggestion that human illness is directly linked to the microbiological profile of raw chicken is not very well supported by the data, since the prevalence of human disease from Salmonella has been going up in recent years while the presence of Salmonella on raw chickens has been going down.

“As always, industry will work hard to fulfill the expectations of the government, its customers, and most of all, of consumers in the United States and around the world for safe and wholesome chicken.

“These standards are for raw chicken. Cooking destroys these organisms. Safe handling and cooking instructions are printed on every package of raw poultry and meat sold in the United States. Additional information is available from sources such as the Partnership for Food Safety Education at http://www.fightbac.org .”

The National Chicken Council represents integrated chicken producer-processors, the companies that produce and process chickens. Member companies of NCC account for approximately 95 percent of the chicken sold in the United States.