Demand for dark poultry meat is on the rise in the U.S., increasing prices for the product and helping the industry recover from a 2011 slump, according to reports.
Sales are rising from a combination of rising U.S. immigrant populations, industry innovation that makes it easier for producers to supply boneless dark meat to satisfy domestic consumer demand, and growing exports to foreign markets that favor chicken on the bone. Boneless, skinless thigh meat ten years ago sold for just over half the price of boneless, skinless breasts, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data. But since the middle of 2011, prices for both cuts have been holding around $1.30 per pound. The price for chicken legs has doubled over the last decade, to more than 75 cents per pound, while prices for breast meat have fallen, said the USDA.
"Our percent of dark meat sold domestically has improved dramatically," said Tyson CEO Donnie Smith. The company is responding by increasing purchases from outside suppliers. Pilgrim's Corp. is using Brazil-based conglomerate JBS SA to expand exports of dark meat and whole birds to Asia and the Middle East, and has dedicated one of its U.S. processing plants to filling export orders.