Diversification in animal production here to stay

chickens-in-house-nccAn ag economist says consumer demand for more information about how farm animals are raised is a trend that’s not going away.

“Many chicken producers around the U.S. can relate to antibiotic free and organic and the expansion of slow growing chickens.”  He says, “These are trends that we think have a lot of staying power despite them being pretty expensive.”

Will Sawyer with Rabobank tells Brownfield production stratification preferences of consumers is mostly a westernized phenomenon.  “Can the international market pay those higher prices and are they willing to?  And the answer probably for the most part is no.”

He says U.S. consumers however are willing to pay higher prices for products that meet their demand and retailers are also making production requests on farmers.  “One of the major future customers in the U.S. will be Whole Foods who has mandated by 2024 that they will only be providing their customers slow growing chicken by that time.  So we’ll have to see how the U.S. industry evolves to serve that demand.”  Sawyer says slow growing chicken is still up for interpretation but generally the birds gain less than 50 grams per day which is significantly less than the average commercial chicken in the U.S. And, he says when farmers invest in more expensive production practices they also need demand for most parts of the animal, like dark meat, to remain profitable.

AUDIO: Interview with Will Sawyer

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