George Watts, President of the US National Chicken Council speaks exclusively to ThePoultrySite.com
George Watts, President
George Watts has served as president of the National Chicken Council since 1972.
National Chicken Council
NCC is the national trade association, based in Washington, D.C., for companies that produce, process, and market approximately 95 percent of the meat-type chicken in the United States.
Prior to assuming his current position, Mr. Watts served as Administrative and Legislative Assistant for two Members of the U.S. Congress. He received his degree from the University of Georgia, where he studied journalism and political science.
Mr. Watts has served as an officer and director of numerous food and agriculture organizations and currently serves on the Board of Directors of the International Poultry Development Program joint-venture project in Russia.
He received the Poultry Industry Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Poultry and Food Distributors Association in January 2002.
The National Chicken Council (NCC), based in Washington, D.C., is the national, non-profit trade association representing the U.S. chicken industry. NCC is a full-service trade association that promotes and protects the interests of the chicken industry and is the industryâ€™s voice before Congress and federal agencies. NCC member companies include chicken producer/processors, poultry distributors, and allied industry firms that account for approximately 95 percent of the chickens produced in the United States.
The National Chicken Council was first established in 1954 in Richmond, Virginia, as the National Broiler Council. NCC headquarters moved to the nationâ€™s capital in 1965 and the new name, National Chicken Council, was adopted in 1999, to better describe the industry and its products.
Our intrepid reporter recently caught up with George Watts, the President of the NCC and put the following questions to him:
Why is chicken been such successful meat?
The chicken boom began in the 1970's when people began moving away from red meat because of concern for its calories and fat content. The continued growth since then, however, has been driven largely by the American public's demand for food that is as convenient and easy to prepare as it is tasty and nutritious. Chicken is the right food at the right time for American consumers.
What are the challenges facing the US and world chicken industry?
The biggest problem we see worldwide is the continuous reservoir and rapid spread of avian diseases. Another growing problem is the cyclical nature of the poultry industry and the frequent imbalance of supply and demand.
Chicken has enjoyed some 30 years of sustained growth . . . can this continue given increasing competition from alternatives and growing pressure
from welfare and environmental communities?
The growth of the industry depends on our ability to "do more with chicken" rather than simply "do more chicken." We can do this by continuing to come up with convenience-oriented products that meet the needs of families pressed for time. Also, we need to continue to take market share from beef,which should be quite feasible.
Pressure from the activist community is a small factor compared to the popularity of chicken. Also, our industry has already taken responsible action to address the legitimate questions in both these areas.
What can less sophisticated chicken industries in other countries learn from the success of the National Chicken Council?
The U.S. industry's model of vertical integration has been a major factor In its success. Our strong consumer orientation has also been very important.
Questions on barriers on international trade have been a problem. How can we prevent these destabilizing the industry in the future?
Trade barriers have certainly been a big problem for us. The major players in the world trade are continuing to put up non-scientific, non-tariff trade barriers. Russia is a special case, but the EU has also erected trade barriers to the extent that we are effectively shut out of Europe. We hope
that the WTO will more effectively address these questions, but this remains a very difficult and troublesome issue.
The European Market is starting to decommoditise with growth in free-range, functional foods and organic products -- do you see this trend being sustained and replicated elsewhere?
Companies in both the U.S. and Europe are responding to market signals from their consumers. U.S. companies also offer organic chicken products, antibiotic-free, etc., but these are mostly rather small niche markets. The growth opportunity for the industry is in convenience-oriented products, more and more of which are being rolled out by large companies and smaller ones alike. The consumer is demanding convenience and ease of preparation and will pay a premium for it.
Bill Clinton was from Arkansas and was well known for his support of the chicken industry -- has the Presidential move from a "chicken" state to a "beef" state caused you any sleepless nights?
Texas, the home state of President Bush, is also a major chicken state, ranking sixth among the 24 states with significant broiler chicken production. So it wasn't that much of a change as far as that goes. Also, the fact that Mr. Clinton was from Arkansas didn't mean that his government was necessarily supportive of our industry. In terms of overall performance, I sleep better knowing that Mr. Clinton is out and Mr. Bush is in.
Source: ThePoultrySite's intrepid interviewer - October 2003