2022 was a whirlwind of a year for many industries, but poultry has a rather unique story to tell. Though chicken prices have increased, sales are up and volume has only seen a small negative impact, said Chris DuBois, IRI executive vice president. 

IRI has seen chicken prices come down over the past couple of months, DuBois said, indicating a strong market for 2023 as that pricing trend should continue.

“Chicken is going to be in a magical world next year,” he said. “We’re going to sell a lot of chicken here in the U.S.”

Despite fill-rate complications, consumers have had enough selection to choose from to meet their purchasing needs, DuBois said.

While chicken is performing well at retail, inflation drove dollar sales, said 210 Analytics President Anne-Marie Roerink.

“Chicken is typically a protein that does well in recessionary and inflationary times but with the impact of Avian Influenza on chicken prices and availability that switch hasn’t been such a seamless one,” she said. “High prices at retail and foodservice rose sharply in the summer and they are now constraining demand just as supply has rebounded.”

Roerink said chicken prices are quickly coming down, as chick placements are higher than they were a year ago.

“Prices for thigh meat in particular are coming way down with supply now exceeding demand,” she said.

Foodservice demand is still recovering, leading to more retail grocers buying more chickens, said Tom Super, vice president of communications for the National Chicken Council. “Next year should experience a return to the more normal share between at-home and away-from-home.”

Super also noted chicken’s appeal to consumers interested in healthful eating and attractive pricing.

“Chicken purchasers cite nutrition, value, and versatility as the top reasons for consuming more chicken,” Super said. “Price/value, convenience, taste, and promotions will continue to drive consumption."

Chicken innovation

New and innovative chicken products continue to be enticing for younger consumers, Super said. “However, when younger consumers start a family, their menu adjusts to the more traditional balance of buying fresh chicken parts to satisfy the family and household budget.”

Dark meat continues to trend, DuBois said, particularly among younger consumers. Retailers and processors that prioritize dark meat are growing faster than their counterparts.

“If you look across the grocery store, dark meat chicken -- it’s been a powerhouse,” he said. “It’s been a big change in what Americans buy. The U.S. poultry industry was really built on boneless, skinless chicken breast, white meat.”

Though still a small percentage of the chicken market, growth for the organic chicken category is outpacing the overall category.

“About 6% of U.S. chicken sales are organic,” DuBois said. “You can see organic chicken go to 8% of the case, easily, over the next five years. And that’s a small number, but it’s a big deal in terms of shifting that market.”

DuBois also noted strong growth for private-label, particularly for boneless thighs.

“Probably about $600 million incremental sales have come out of boneless thighs,” he said. “So not only are they well positioned from a price and quality side, they’re up on the most innovative products as well.”

Super said changes in the rotisserie section of supermarkets include offering roaster-size chickens.

“Breast, legs, and assorted parts can also be found in more stores, hot or chilled,” Super said. “Chicken salad at the deli counter is now almost always made with rotisserie meat.”

He also noted growth for spicy prepared chicken and chicken sandwiches.

Turkey emphasizes versatility

The National Turkey Federation's Vice President of Communications & Marketing Beth Breeding said the industry is prioritizing innovative flavor profiles as well as turkey's grilling versatility.

"Deli will also remain an important category for turkey as budget-conscious shoppers seek ways (to) cut spending by preparing lunches and meals at home," she said.

Breeding said that NTF anticipates turkey's expansion into barbecue will lead to innovative products in both foodservice and retail.

"The National Turkey Federation has invested in highlighting turkey's versatility in the barbecue space through the Turkey Smoke and Tailgate with Turkey (campaigns), and we are excited that this has proven to be a place where turkey has great potential," Breeding said.

Roerink said ground turkey was the biggest seller in retail over whole bird, representing 56% of all sales.

“We see great strength for things like turkey wings, legs, and ground,” Roerink said. “This may indicate that turkey is making more inroads into everyday meal occasions as well as grilling and smoking.”

She said that experimentation with various meat types has been a consumer trend. Lingering COVID-19 restrictions had led to smaller celebrations, leading to consumers buying different proteins as well as different cuts of turkey, as opposed to the whole bird.

HPAI effects 

Toward the end of October 2022, Breeding discussed how the turkey industry and NTF have focused on HPAI response. Though there was a previous HPAI outbreak in 2015, Breeding said that this outbreak is different. NTF formed an HPAI Task Force, and industry leaders are discussing various measures to take to limit the spread of HPAI.

NTF is calling for federal support of efforts against HPAI, and is particularly focused on the National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program, Breeding said.

Though HPAI has impacted the turkey and egg industries, Super said, it has been less impactful on the chicken industry. 

“Only about 5% of the total birds affected in 2022 to date, have been broiler chickens,” he said.

DuBois said that HPAI has made supply chains more difficult, but there is plenty of chicken for consumers. “Only about 5% of the total birds affected in 2022 to date, have been broiler chickens,” Super said.

Going into 2023, the turkey industry will spend some time recovering from the impacts of HPAI, Breeding said. 

“While there were ample whole turkeys available for holiday meals, there have been some spot disruptions of other products. Most of those disruptions have been resolved, but it is something that we will need to follow going into the New Year.”

FSIS salmonella regulations

In November 2022, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service hosted a virtual meeting to discuss the proposed regulatory framework for Salmonella in poultry products. The National Chicken Council responded to the proposed regulations. A news release from NCC stated that “NCC supports changes in food safety regulations that are based on sound science, robust data, and are demonstrated to positively impact public health.” While NCC supports regulations based on these components, NCC does have concerns regarding the proposed framework, including:

  1. Requiring incoming flocks be tested for Salmonella before entering an establishment.
  2. Enhancing establishment process control monitoring and FSIS verification.
  3. Implementing an enforceable final product standard, while considering whether Salmonella at certain levels and/or types of Salmonella should be considered as an adulterant.

In the release, NCC stated, “We look forward to a continued meaningful dialogue with FSIS on the proposed Salmonella framework and are hopeful we can come up with a science-based, data-driven approach that will not only improve public health but also ensure that consumers of America’s favorite protein still have an affordable product available to feed their families.