Chicken expected to remain best-value protein

While availability of some chicken products has been limited, beef and pork also are in short supply.

A high demand for certain chicken products has driven up their prices, but when compared to the price of beef and pork, chicken can still be considered the “best-value protein,” said Michael Piken, senior analyst with Cleveland Research Company (CRC).

Piken, speaking during the CRC Virtual Foodservice Forum on August 26, Piken referenced the Wendy’s commercial that aired during the mid-1980s, in which an elderly lady would shout out, “Where’s the Beef?”

“I guess this year, it’s a case of where’s the beef, the chicken and the pork,” Piken said.

Challenges with chicken

Piken said no chicken product has been more difficult to obtain in 2021 than wings. Suppliers have not been able to keep up with the pace of orders for wings, and a lot of buyers have been placed on an allocation system.

Breast meat has also been in high demand, driven not only by the chicken sandwich wars among quick service restaurants, but also because of the lessening of restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Full service restaurants that previously had their dining rooms closed are open again, which has fueled the demand. The reopening of schools, sporting venues and entertainment venues has also contributed.

The poultry industry has also been hampered by a lack of workers, but Piken said that problem is also present in the beef and pork industry. All three sectors also face distribution challenges.

Disease, regulatory impacts on pork industry

While the chicken industry faces its challenges, the pork industry has its own unique set of obstacles to overcome.

While it seems like China, the world’s largest producer and consumer of pork, appears to be recovering from the African swine fever (ASF) outbreak, Piken said he does not believe the lost herd has been fully recovered, keeping the demand for U.S. pork strong.

But another disease event has been shortening pork supplies. Piken said an outbreak of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) during the past winter limited the supply of pigs that would have gone to market this summer.

Also, there is some market volatility related the pending enactment of California’s Proposition 12, which would make it illegal to produce pigs with the use of gestation stalls, or sell products from farms that used them.

Beef industry dynamics

Piken said within the past several weeks, there has been a real shift in buyer behavior for beef.

Basically, buyers have kind of switched from being more price-sensitive to being more focused on just procuring supplies. We have seen a lot more aggressive out-front buying than we’ve seen in the past.

Piken said CRC will monitor whether consumers will try to trade down on the types or cuts of beef they buy, based on those trends. Consumer behaviors could particularly change in lower income areas, he said.

As of now, there is an adequate supply of cattle, but Piken said the market might get tighter by the middle of 2022.

Par Roy Graber (26/08/2021)

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Photo : Church’s Chicken (tirée de l'article original)