Weekly Overview: Focus on the US

ANALYSIS - With the International Production & Processing Expo (IPPE) taking place in Atlanta next week, our focus this week is on the developments in the US poultry industry. There are positive signs for the industry, including more acres planted with maize and soybeans, rising retail prices and a peak in demand for chicken wings coming up. Some negative - and some entirely false - consumer perceptions continue to dog the industry but strenuous efforts are being made to correct the misconceptions.
calendar icon 24 January 2013
clock icon 4 minute read

Looking ahead in 2013, two developments reported recently should cheer the poultry industry; firstly, increased areas planted to maize and soybeans should help reduce feed prices, and retail prices for chicken and turkey meat have risen over the last year. A record for chicken wing consumption is expected in just over a week's time.

More maize, soybean and wheat acres will be planted for this year than in 2012, according to a University of Missouri agriculture business specialist.

"Corn acres this year will likely be about 99 million acres, which is two million more than last year," David Reinbott said. "With a more normal weather pattern, most trend-line yield calculations put yield at 162 bushels an acre."

Planted acres of soybeans are also expected to increase about two million acres to 79 million in 2013. Figuring 42 bushels an acre, he said that would create a supply of 258 million bushels.

Winter wheat acres also increased from last year, but not as much as expected. Weather will continue to play a big role in the grain fields this year, Dr Reinbott warned.

Meat price inflation at the retail level was a mixed bag in 2012, according to Steve Meyer and Len Steiner. Broiler and turkey retail prices rose by double digits, in some cases, after three years of flat prices, they noted.

National Farmers Union has praised Majority Leader, Harry Reid, for his commitment to making a new Farm Bill priority legislation for the 113th Congress.

Chicken wings have become a staple food of Super Bowl parties in the US, and demand for them on menus is now at an all-time high, leading up to the second biggest eating day of the year – Super Bowl Sunday (3 February) It is forecast that 1.23 billion wings will be consumed over that major sporting weekend.

On a less positive note, the US poultry industry has been under pressure again from negative public perceptions. In the last week, a TV programme promoted meat-free meals as being healthier, for example, but gaining public support for agriculture is the key theme of a forthcoming expert panel discussion.

Meat consumption has been attracting more criticism recently as meat-free vegetarian organisations continue to push for the introduction of meatless meals and engages with state legislature.

Animal Agriculture Alliance President and CEO, Kay Johnson Smith, said: "We believe in consumer choice when it comes to selecting one's meal choices, but this particular campaign is based on misleading and false information which is a disservice to America's hard working farm families, as well as consumers."

The need for agriculture to maintain public support of animal production practices while at the same time provide enough food for the world will be examined by experts at Purdue University and the US Department of Agriculture next month.

"Far too often discussions about animal well-being are political, and they can erode quickly," said Candace Croney, a Purdue University associate professor of animal sciences who will lead the panel discussion on 'Balancing Act: Meeting the Growing Demands for Food, Enhanced Animal Well-being and Consumer Trust' in Indianapolis on 2 February.

"Doing the right thing should be the driving factor for our practices and policies," Ms Croney said.

And finally, in other news, two new H7N3 highly pathogenic bird flu outbreaks have been reported in Mexico. Outbreaks in the same region in 2012 opened the opportunity of US egg exports to Mexico to meet demand.

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