Where does chicken fit on the menu for the next year? Demand is high, prices have dropped, and even with higher production costs squeezing profitability for poultry growers, production increases are moving full steam ahead. Over the past few months, much of this blog’s focus has been to ensure the underutilized cuts of poultry aren’t overlooked - and many operators did the same. National chains even started experimenting with thighs and drumsticks to combat shortages and subsequent pricing increases.
The average consumer is currently paying approximately 50% more for protein than they were this time last year, and unfortunately for many proteins, that is a trend that is here to stay. With cattle supply shrinking (officially down 2 billion lbs annually compared to last year), and hog breeding hitting a five-year low, chicken is rising up once again as king of the roost. Operators and home chefs alike will turn to chicken as their budget friendly protein once again this year. The uptick in production will result in stable prices and ready availability—a welcome change from the last few months when we saw poultry prices hitting all-time highs.
A few more reasons the bird is the word…
We know chicken is the lower-cost, versatile, and healthy choice of protein. Here’s another perspective—eating chicken is better for the planet! The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently concluded that chicken is the most sustainable meat choice for consumers, and brightly.eco published similar findings in their recent blog post, "Your Guide to Sustainable Meat: The Best (and Worst) Options for the Planet."
Younger generations like Millennials and Gen Z are making up a larger demographic of buyers than ever before, and things like sustainability, environmentally-friendly and humane treatment are at least as important to these groups as the price…perhaps more so! They are willing to adapt and change food choices—and even pay more—if they can reduce their carbon footprint and improve sustainability. About 28% of global consumers now include "environmental well-being" in their search for products. With climate change news running 24-7, those products, companies, and operators that put sustainability front and center will be the more popular choice.
Energy costs are another sustainability issue, and those costs don’t just affect poultry producers. With energy prices set to continually increase, at least in the short term, and rumors of pending government regulation to limit gas stove use, consumers are opting for more microwavable and air fryer-friendly products to save on added household electricity costs. Pre-cooked, seasoned, and sauced options will be more popular on grocery shelves than raw cuts, and health-minded consumers will continue to choose chicken over red meat menu items.
As economies recover in 2023-2024, consumer demand for low prices will ebb. The next year will see consumers and restaurant customers move beyond price alone, seeking products and experiences that provide clarity, moral fulfillment, versatility, and nutritional or health benefits. Fatigued by claims and hype, consumers will seek clear and simple communication in product marketing, and brands that provide evidence for their claims will prevail. Over the next couple of years, you’ll see advertising and product communications streamlined and focused on the essential selling points that matter most to consumers and brands. Nutrition will be center stage, and storytelling about product history and origin will migrate from packaging to social platforms and other channels.