4.4 From production to consumption - Consumption
Over the past 40 years, chicken has grown from an occasional treat to a staple part of the diet of most Australians. In this time per capita consumption of poultry meat in Australia has soared from 10.5kg (1969–70) to well over 43.9kg (2010–11).
Almost 90 per cent of surveyed Australians eat chicken as a main component of a meal at least once a week, with one in three eating it at least three times a week (unpublished ACMF consumer survey, 2010).
Based on recently released ABS (2011) statistics, the ACMF estimates consumption of chicken meat in 2010–2011 to have reached 43.9kg per person, easily outstripping beef consumption, and is fast gaining upon total red meat (beef, veal, lamb, mutton) consumption.
The retail price of chicken – assessed on the basis of the price of a fresh whole chicken – has remained relatively flat over the long term compared to the other meats. Some 58 per cent of Australians consider chicken to be the best value for money meat option (unpublished ACMF consumer survey, 2010). The top graph on the opposite page illustrates the movements in the nominal price for each of the main meats over the past decade and clearly demonstrates the increased value proposition that chicken meat offers the consumer.
These pricing trends supported the strong growth in consumption of chicken and its growing place in the Australian diet, with the long term downward trend in the real price of chicken matched by a steady increase in consumption.
These two trends are illustrated in the bottom graph on the opposite page which shows the growth in consumption relative to 1987–88, together with the decline in the real price of chicken (i.e. adjusted for Consumer Price Index (CPI) movements).
Over the past two decades, consumption has increased by over 60 per cent while over the same period price decreased 40 per cent.
The historical flat trend of chicken meat prices relative to growth in the price of other meats is due to a combination of factors affecting productivity and costs of production:
Selective breeding – chickens have been selectively bred for characteristics such as the ability to put on muscle (meat) quickly, and the efficiency with which they convert feed to meat.
Animal husbandry and feeding – research has focused strongly on identifying the best mix of nutrients to support optimal growth of chickens, and on farming techniques to keep birds healthy and productive.
Processing automation – rapid adoption of constantly improving technology to process, cut and pack chicken meat, has contributed to reduced retail prices.
With regards to genetic gain, while other meat industries also seek to improve the productivity of animals through genetic selection, the relatively short time that chickens take to reach sexual maturity and the fact that they can then produce many offspring over a very short period of time has meant that breeding companies have been able to make significant advances in improving the productivity of chickens more quickly compared to other livestock species.