NZ Appetite for Chicken Breast Meat Soars

NEW ZEALAND - New Zealanders' appetite for chicken breast meat has soared, as poultry eclipses mince as the preferred protein in the supermarket meat aisle.
calendar icon 23 June 2017
clock icon 4 minute read

According to, the Foodstuffs chain, which comprises New World and Pak 'n Save supermarkets, has released data from its butchery departments showing that boneless chicken breast sales have almost doubled in the past decade and boneless breast meat is now its biggest-selling specific butchery product.

While the combined varieties of beef mince (prime and premium) still pip breast sales in Foodstuffs stores, the data makes it clear that Kiwis' love affair with poultry generally is leaving red meat behind. Combining sales of boneless thigh meat with the boneless chook breasts gives the poultry category a clear first-placing as Foodstuffs' most popular animal protein; and that's without including bone-in chicken cuts.

The Foodstuffs information follows on from the other big supermarket chain, the Progressive-owned Countdown chain, which announced in February that chicken cuts generally had overtaken mince in its butchery departments too.

It was the popularity of boneless, skinless chicken breasts specifically that was remarkable in the Foodstuffs' data. It showed that in its South Island stores breast sales had gone from 4.15 per cent of total butchery sales in 2007-08 to 7.67 per cent in 2016-17.

That was well ahead of the next biggest product, prime beef mince, at 4.97 per cent of total sales. While Foodstuffs did not release national sales figures it said that the South Island trend was reflected in the north.

Mince sales generally held more or less steady over the decade, with chicken breasts' rise to dominance apparently coming at the expense of more traditional cuts like lamb loin chops and corned silverside.

Beef and Lamb New Zealand chief executive Rod Slater said the surge in chicken meat sales was price driven.

"Chicken breasts are produced very cheaply in this country and are commodity driven; as a result it's overtaken mince."

He said there had also been a significant change in consumer eating habits over the past 10 years.

"These changes have been brought on by the influence of cooking shows such as MasterChef, and the effect of migration and the fusion that has created."

However, it wasn't all bad news for the red meat scene. Another strong performer in the Foodstuffs figures was the lamb leg roast. Ten years ago it didn't feature in the top-20 meat categories in the chain's South Island stores; in 2016-17 it had vaulted to fifth most popular, with 2.37 per cent of total meat sales.

Foodstuffs South Island's general manager of retail, Tim Donaldson, believed that home cooks were feeling more confident about tackling the traditional Kiwi classic roast, thanks to things like TV cooking shows and online inspiration.

When it came to the mince-versus-chicken breast debate, NZ Nutrition Foundation dietitian Sarah Hanrahan said there was no clear answer about which protein was nutritionally better.

"They both have their place. Chicken breast is generally a leaner cut of meat, while mince could have higher levels of fat. But red meat had a higher iron content.

"A lot of it comes down to how you cook it and the quality [of the meat]."

Poultry Industry Association New Zealand executive director Michael Brooks cited a range of factors for the chicken breast's popularity including cost efficiency, convenience and adaptability.

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