State of the broiler industry
By Treena HeinFeatures Emerging Trends
As the broiler industry stays on high alert for further HPAI outbreaks and a potential global recession looming, it’s a fitting time to look at how the sector is doing.
As the broiler industry stays on high alert for further highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreaks and a potential global recession looming, it’s a fitting time to look at how the sector is doing in terms of sales, marketing efforts, sustainability progress and more.
Overall, the outlook for chicken remains very bright – and Chicken Farmers of Canada (CFC) is determined to make it ever brighter.
“We are excited about our sustainable, profitable and growing sector, as well as increasing the consumption of chicken per capita by one kg per year,” says JJ Hochrein, who is CFC’s new director of brand marketing, and previously held the head of marketing position at Farm Boy, am upscale Canadian grocery chain. “Also, we are thrilled about telling the economic, environmental and social sustainability stories of Canadian chicken farming.”
Before we look at how Hochrein and his team plan to increase annual consumption of chicken by one kg a year per Canadian, let’s look at the sales data in CFC’s most recent annual report (see sidebar for more). Chicken still dominates other meat proteins in Canada. In 2022, annual per capita consumption increased by about five per cent over the year before – the highest volume on record. Total 2022 sales of poultry increased by 14 per cent from 2021 to $4.2 billion.
The average live price paid to Canadian chicken farmers increased slightly and total chicken inventories increased in the last five months of 2022 to reach a record-high level of 61 Mkg at year’s end. At that point, Canada’s food service was back in full swing after the mandated lockdowns.
CFC also notes in the report that while in 2022, “sales volume at retail stores retreated from the highs during the Covid years, dollar sales figures exceeded previous years’ levels because of higher prices.” Of the four chicken cuts CFC monitors, breast meat prices increased the most in 2022 to $14.51/kg, up $1.68 (13.1 per cent) from the year before.
However, it’s important to note that prices for other meat and eggs also increased. Beef retail prices shot up in 2022, with the cheapest beef product, ground beef, increasing by 8.6 per cent and stewing beef by 13.7 per cent. Fresh pork prices stayed steady.
Canada’s imports of relatively small amounts of chicken products from the U.S. and about 10 other countries continued last year, and CFC participated in various trade discussions to boost export of Canadian chicken products into various markets.
CFC is a founding member of the Canadian Poultry Research Council, which approved seven research projects to fund in 2022, some of which have an environmental focus.
The new CFC Strategic Plan 2023-2025 has many environmental goals, such as updating the current lifecycle assessment for chicken production every five years going forward. CFC also plans to develop an in-depth understanding for its own staff and board, as well as farmers, on the environmental impacts of chicken farming and to investigate the feasibility of net zero emissions by 2050 for chicken farming. CFC will also investigate a benchmarking environmental sustainability tool.
In terms of new technologies being used on farms, there isn’t anything that stands out. That is, while barn upgrades and new barn construction continues on Canadian broiler farms, the latest, most-efficient technologies are installed, such as better barn environmental controls and technologies that cut feed waste.
The industry is further reducing its environmental impact with heat exchangers and various systems that optimize electricity use, improve manure storage and manage waste water.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) continues to be Canada’s biggest broiler health and welfare concern. In addition, Jean-François Bérubé, CFC’s senior communications officer, notes that ongoing outbreaks have “had a major impact on farmer mental health” and can affect “the whole supply chain, particularly if cases occur at the breeding sector level.”
Canadian Hatching Egg Producers chair Brian Bilkes confirms that HPAI has significantly affected chick production in some provinces. “Hatching egg producers across Canada have worked closely with hatcheries to exercise additional measures like shipping eggs early, extending flock life and increasing breeder chick placements,” he explains.
“In a collective effort to keep fertility and hatchability up…We are hopeful that we’ve moved passed the worst of the HPAI situation after cases declined this spring, but it remains an uncertainty. Even so, the future of the Canadian hatching egg sector is bright.”
To keep apprised of trends, changing market conditions, customer habits and demographic shifts across Canada, every year CFC works with various market research partners. “This information helps us tailor our marketing messages,” Hochrein says, “so that we provide relevant information to the customer we want to reach, with the right media vehicle.”
Indeed, like other savvy organizations and companies, CFC uses a very wide range of avenues to promote chicken to Canadians. This includes TV ads (a new set of commercials was launched in 2021), radio and other traditional media as well as digital mediums like the CFC website and the main social media platforms.
In 2022, awareness of the Raised by a Canadian Farmer branding rose to 43 per cent of those surveyed, the highest amount yet, and CFC has been particularly successful in making younger consumers aware of the brand (see sidebar).
CFC created the Raised by a Canadian Farmer program after years of research showing that Canadians were concerned about where their chicken is produced, and that Canadian chicken be labelled as such. More and more consumers are understanding that the brand does not just convey production origin, but the very high quality that Canadian production ensures, on environmental, food safety and other fronts.
Another consumer survey in 2021 resulted in the creation of a new brand statement in 2022, with a focus on chicken’s versatility: Different Day, Different Dish. To support this, CFC continues to offer creative cooking ideas that will prompt Canadians to purchase more chicken than they have before.
Hochrein says connecting with consumers to share exciting and new recipes is the key to grow consumption of chicken across the country. CFC has already created and shared many recipes on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and has partnered on some of these platforms with several notable Canadian influencers, ranging from chefs to parents.
There are many other marketing initiatives CFC takes part in. For example, during National Chicken Month last year, CFC put a call-out to chefs to share their favourite chicken dishes from various cultures. This resulted in CFC sharing recipes from cultures in Ghana, Trinidad and Tobago, India and the Philippines. CFC also attends or exhibits at many shows, such as the national conference of the Culinary Federation of Canada, attended by chefs from across the country.
As to how soon Canadian chicken may have to square off with so-called cultured (also called lab-grown or cellular agriculture) chicken, please watch for the next issue of Canadian Poultry magazine. No matter the challenges ahead, however, CFC will continue to show great respect for Canadians. “Never stop listening to the customer,” Hochrein says. “They will tell you what they want and how they want it.”
The Canadian chicken industry at a glance: consumption and production
- Chicken is the most popular meat protein choice in Canada.
- 2022 per capita consumption of chicken is estimated at 36.1 kg, 1.6 kg (4.7 per cent) more than 2021, and the highest volume on record.
- The average live price paid to Canadian chicken farmers in 2022 was $2.043 per kg live weight, a $0.212 increase compared to 2021 and $0.428 higher than in 2020.
- Awareness of the ‘Raised by a Canadian Farmer’ branding increased to 43 per cent in 2022, up from 39 per cent in 2021. There was also an almost 10 per cent increase in brand awareness amongst younger consumers, aged 18-34 (53 per cent up from 42 per cent).
- Poultry production and total sales income increased in 2022 due to increased demand and higher product prices. However, increases in feed grain prices and the avian influenza outbreak increased production costs.
- Canadian poultry farmers produced 1.5 billion kg of chicken, turkey and stewing hens in 2022.
- Ontario leads production and sales. Ontario accounted for over one-third, or 478.4 million kg, of the chicken (including stewing hens) produced in Canada in 2022, while Quebec accounted for over one-quarter, or 358.5 million kg.
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