In an interview with Bloomberg News, Sanderson Farms CEO Joe Sanderson Jr. said that bird weight gains could slow in 2017. After years of raising larger chickens, processors are looking for ways to avoid “woody breast,” a texture problem in the meat . Sanderson said that the problematic texture is a result of genetics but added that the issue appears to be worse in heavier birds.
“In 2017, you will not see increases in live weights you’ve seen the last couple of years,” Sanderson said in a telephone interview on Thursday. “The increase is going to slow.”
U.S. chickens raised for meat weighed an average of 6.24 pounds in 2015. The bigger birds are more profitable, but the woody texture to some meat devalues the product, making it suitable only for further processing into chicken nuggets or other items. Sanderson said that the texture was found in as much as 5 percent of the boneless breast meat at the company’s big bird deboning plants.
Sanderson hasn’t found the woody meat at its so-called tray-pack plants that prepare chicken for retailers. Birds slaughtered at the company’s big-bird deboning plants are about 9 pounds, while chickens weigh about 6.5 pounds at the tray-pack plants. The problem started a couple of years ago when breeders selected certain birds for growth rates and breast-meat yield, Sanderson said. Breeders will take two to three years to fix the issue as they eliminate birds that produce the trait, he said.