Australia: Agricultural Commodities: Chicken Meat

A review of the state of the industry by Clay Mifsud, based on research by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) for the September Quarter 2013.
calendar icon 7 October 2013
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Australian chicken meat production is forecast to increase by two per cent in 2013–14 to almost 1.1 million tonnes in response to higher prices driven by strong consumer demand. Despite forecast increased chicken meat prices, their relativity to considerably higher beef, sheep meat and pig meat prices is expected to continue to support growth in consumer demand.

In 2012–13, Australian chicken meat production increased by two per cent to 1.05 million tonnes. Higher production over the past year reflects a two per cent increase in the number of birds slaughtered to 563 million head, as the meat yield per bird remained steady at an average of 1.9kg.

Domestic consumption of chicken meat is forecast to be around 44kg per person in 2013–14, one per cent more than in 2012–13. Disparity in retail prices between chicken and other meats has contributed to Australian per-person chicken meat consumption increasing by 80 per cent over 20 years to 2012–13, to be among the highest in the OECD.

The chicken meat industry in Australia is highly vertically integrated; two privately owned companies supply around 70 per cent of meat chickens for slaughter. Five privately owned medium-sized processors and a number of smaller processors supply the remaining 30 per cent. About 80 per cent of all meat chickens are produced under contract -processors supply day-old chicks and rearing specifications -and the remaining 20 per cent are grown on company farms.

About 96 per cent of Australian chicken meat production is consumed domestically and the remainder is exported. In 2012–13 Australian chicken meat exports fell 13 per cent to 29,000 tonnes (shipped weight) reflecting temporary bans placed on imports of Australian poultry after avian influenza (H7N7) was detected in New South Wales. In 2013–14, Australian chicken meat exports are forecast to resume growing and are expected to reach 34,000 tonnes.

Australian chicken meat exports

Chicken Meat Imports in Australia

The Australian chicken meat industry is not under significant competition from imports. Imports of cooked chicken meat have been permitted in Australia since 1998 and fresh since 2008 but import volumes remain low relative to domestic production.

Imports of deboned cooked chicken meat were negligible until the late 2000s, with more than 80 per cent of imports sourced from New Zealand and Thailand. In 2012–13, imports of cooked chicken meat increased by 25 per cent to 7,000 tonnes, with a value of A$50 million. However, this represents around one per cent of Australian chicken meat consumption.

Imported cooked chicken meat must comply with the Imported Food Control Act 1992 and the Australian Food Standards Code under the National Food Authority Act 1991.

Under this legislation, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry may inspect, sample, hold and test imported cooked chicken meat for microbial agents or residues of public health concern. The chickens from which the cooked chicken meat is produced must originate from the country of export. The meat must be cooked at high temperature for at least 125 minutes to ensure eradication of pests or bacteria. Chicken meat for export to Australia must be processed and stored separately from all other meat processed in the same facility.

Australian cooked chicken meat imports

In 2008, Australia’s Director of Animal and Plant Quarantine made a policy determination establishing quarantine requirements for importation of fresh chicken meat, based on a generic import risk analysis report. The import risk analysis recommended that imports of chicken meat be permitted subject to quarantine conditions for nine disease agents of quarantine concern, including notifiable avian influenza, Newcastle disease and infectious bursal disease. At July 2013, less than 300 tonnes of fresh chicken meat had been imported.

Chicken meat outlook

October 2013

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