With great fanfare, industry insiders are calling poultry the new king of protein, as it is surpassing global pork production in 2019.
Poultry’s rise to the throne is due to African swine fever (ASF), which is expected to result in a 15 percent drop in pork production worldwide in 2019, according to Paul Aho, PhD, principal of Poultry Perspective, a consulting firm based in Storrs, Conn.
“Poultry has already surpassed pork in total production this year and it’s doubtful it will ever again relinquish its place at the top,” Dr. Aho predicts.
A highly contagious and deadly viral disease affecting domestic and wild pigs of all ages, ASF is found in countries around the world, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. More recently, it spread through China, Mongolia, and Vietnam, as well as within parts of the European Union, according to USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Although it has never been found in the U.S., APHIS has implemented comprehensive ASF preparedness efforts, including a surveillance plan.
ASF is not a threat to human health and cannot be transmitted from pigs to humans. APHIS also emphasizes it is not a food safety issue.
Poultry Production and Consumption by the Numbers
In 2018, more than 9 billion broiler chickens, weighing 56.5 billion pounds (liveweight), were produced in the U.S., according to the National Chicken Council (NCC). More than 42.1 billion pounds of chicken product was marketed in the U.S. in 2018, measured on a ready-to-cook basis.
Consumer retail expenditures for chicken in the U.S. run $95 billion, NCC says.
The U.S., which produced 5.878 billion pounds of turkey meat in 2018, according to the USDA, is the world’s largest turkey producer and largest exporter of turkey products. It exported 7,763 million pounds of poultry in 2018, including 7,068 pounds of broilers and 611 million pounds of turkey. Some 84 pounds of duck were also exported in 2018, Dr. Aho notes.
Currently, annual per capita consumption of poultry in the U.S. is 109 pounds, (93 pounds of chicken and 16 pounds of turkey combined), basically tied with red meat (52 pounds of pork and 57 pounds of beef), USDA reports.
In explaining poultry trends, John Butts, PhD, advisor to the CEO of Land O’Frost, Inc. and president of FoodSafetyByDesign, LLC, starts by reviewing a bit of meat industry history.
“Forty years ago, red meat companies produced and sold only red meat products, and poultry did the same,” Dr. Butts points out. “Soy protein was an extender, added to both commodities to reduce the cost. Today we have meat processing companies that are selling both red and poultry meat protein. Other food processors produce plant-based products primarily for those who choose not to eat red or poultry meat.”
We now have beef hot dogs, all-meat hot dogs, poultry hot dogs, and hot dogs made of both meat and poultry, Dr. Butts notes. “The same goes for how a consumer uses ground meat,” he says. “Ground turkey and chicken have become very popular for their perceived nutritional and health qualities and are used instead of or in the place of ground beef or pork. Plant-based products which were once extenders or only consumed by those who chose not to eat meat are being consumed by non-vegetarians based on their flavor and perceived benefits. The meat-protein landscape is continually shifting, just as products named milk are no longer just from a lactating animal.”
Food Industry Support and Training
Calling itself the “All Feather Association,” the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association (USPOULTRY), Tucker, Ga., touts itself as the world’s largest and most active poultry organization. Membership includes producers and processors of broilers, turkeys, ducks, eggs, and breeding stock, as well as allied companies. Founded in 1947, the association has affiliations in 26 states and member companies worldwide.