4.3 From production to consumption - Processing and distribution
There are two stages in chicken meat processing. The first stage is primary processing, where the birds are slaughtered, plucked, cleaned, cooled and either filleted, cut into pieces or left ‘whole’. The raw meat is then frozen or chilled, packaged and sent to distributors or on to the next stage - further processing. In this second stage, chicken meat is further processed by coating, crumbing, partial or complete cooking, or otherwise adding value.
Fresh and frozen raw chicken
Fresh and frozen raw chicken meat can leave the primary processing plant whole, filleted or in pieces and about 69 per cent of production does not get processed any further. Supermarkets represent the largest distribution channel for such fresh or frozen chicken, with 40 per cent of raw chicken meat going to supermarkets. Wholesalers follow with 19 per cent. Sales to quick service restaurants, the hospitality and food services industry, specialty poultry retailers, pet food manufacturers and butchers make up a further 39 per cent.
Australia has witnessed a steady trend away from frozen chicken, with volumes of fresh chicken now outweighing frozen by ten to one. Consumers have also shown a growing preference for purchasing chicken in pieces, ready to cook, although the sale of fresh whole chickens remains strong.
Chicken may leave primary processing packaged in bulk, or ready packed for consumers to select from the retail shelf. Some may include light spicing or marinades.
Value added products
Approximately 31 per cent of chicken meat goes to further processing. Further processing provides value added processes such as further cutting, coating, crumbing and cooking. Most of the finished products from further processing go to supermarkets (34 per cent) and quick service restaurants (33 per cent).
The final products of further processing include a wide array of ready-to-cook foods such as coated chicken pieces, nuggets, chicken tempura products, burger fillets, chicken skewers and crumbed or coated chicken pieces.
Also products from further processing go to customers such as hospitality and food services providers (17 per cent), wholesalers (6 per cent), specialty shops (6 per cent), and butchers (<1 per cent).