September, 2006- How often do consumers eat chicken and how many consumers eat chicken? Also, which chicken parts are most purchased? And what are consumers’ intentions regarding eating chicken over the next 12 months? Results from the June 2-4, 2006, consumer market research conducted for the National Chicken Council and funded by WATT PoultryUSA magazine provide data to address these questions.

Frequency for eating chicken purchased at supermarkets and at restaurants was measured, as well as combined frequency of chicken consumption. Also, the survey provides insights into chicken consumption by light, medium and heavy chicken eaters. Survey results also reveal information about what share of consumers eat chicken purchased at supermarkets, restaurants and the two markets combined. Information about future plans for eating chicken provides a basis for a comparison with similar information in 1998.

Consumers were surveyed by PKS Research Partners in early June this year. Over 1,000 respondents were interviewed via telephone calls in a nationwide, randomly selected sample of consumers 18 years of age and older. The sample was weighted to reflect a respondent mix of 52 percent women and 48 percent men.

Of the respondents, 747 are considered to have grocery shopping responsibilities for the household, of which 691 consider themselves as having sole responsibility for grocery shopping while another 56 respondents say they share this responsibility with another member of the household. Numbers are on a weighted basis.

The nine U.S. regions of the United States are represented in the survey, approximate in proportion to the distribution of the U.S. population. Of interest is that 86 percent of respondents, on a weighted basis, have a television in their household, while 77 percent have a computer, and 63 percent have internet access. About 74 percent of respondents have a cell phone, while 2 percent don’t know what electronic devices are in the household.

Consumption rate & market penetration

Consumers were asked about their consumption rate and market penetration during the two weeks prior to the survey for chicken that was purchased at supermarkets and similar retail grocery stores. Products included fresh, frozen, or prepared chicken purchased at retail grocery stores and supermarkets.

A parallel question to the supermarket/retail grocery store question was asked about chicken purchased from a foodservice establishment, such as a restaurant or cafeteria. Respondents were asked to consider food purchased at away-from-home eating places, not necessarily where they actually ate chicken.

Using the two weeks prior to the survey as the time period, consumers were asked how many times they ate chicken purchased at a restaurant, fast food store, carry-out shop or employee cafeteria.

Survey results for 2006, compared with results in 2005, indicate that at-home consumption has increased from 3.1 times last year to 3.3 times in two weeks this year. At the same time, away-from-home consumption in the two-week period has decreased slightly, from 2.0 times in 2005 to 1.9 times in 2006.

While the restaurant/foodservice venue declined as a place of purchase in 2006 compared with 2003, 2004 and 2005, the total frequency of eating chicken is at a six-year high in 2006 (5.2 times in two weeks).

Consumers are eating chicken this year at an average rate of 5.2 times in two weeks, the most since 2001. Almost nine of every ten consumers ate chicken from supermarkets during two weeks this year. The 87 percent household penetration is the highest found over the six years the survey has been conducted.

Two-thirds of respondents ate foodservice chicken in 2006 during the two-week time period, similar to findings in 2002 and 2005. Although frequency of eating foodservice chicken slipped in 2006, household penetration remains steady when compared with 2005.

Over nine of ten respondents ate chicken either from supermarkets or foodservice this year. The high level of 92 percent found in 2006 is the same as found in 2004.

Light, medium & heavy consumption

Chicken purchased from a supermarket/grocery food store was eaten on average, 3.3 times in the two weeks, including respondents who said they ate no supermarket-purchased chicken during this time, while the average increases to 3.8 times excluding non-chicken eaters. Respondents who indicate they did not eat chicken purchased from a supermarket/ grocery store in the two weeks represent 13 percent. In 2005, the comparable share was 18 percent. Light consumers of chicken (once in two weeks) represent 11 percent in 2006, compared with 13 percent in 2005.

Respondents who ate chicken from retail grocery food stores 2 or 3 times in two weeks are categorized as medium chicken eaters. The medium group totaled 37 percent compared to 33 percent in 2005.

Consumers eating chicken from supermarkets/grocery stores 4, 5, 6-7, 8 or more times in two weeks are classified as heavy chicken eaters. This group of heavy chicken eaters account for 39 percent of the total number of respondents, compared with 34 percent in 2005.


Respondents ate chicken purchased at restaurants, fast food stores, or employee cafeterias and similar foodservice operations an average of 1.9 times during two weeks, including non-eaters of foodservice chicken. Excluding non-chicken eaters raises the average to 2.9 times during two weeks. By comparison, in 2005 the frequencies for these two measures were, 2.0 and 2.9, respectively. The share of consumers not eating foodservice chicken during the two-week time period in 2006 stayed at 33 percent. The percentage of light chicken eaters, at 21percent in 2006, was the same as in 2005.

Combining respondents who eat foodservice chicken two or three times during two weeks finds 28 percent can be classified as medium eaters of foodservice chicken, compared with 29 percent in 2005.

Heavy consumers of chicken at foodservice, that is those who eat chicken 4 and 5 or more times during two weeks from restaurants and similar foodservice operations, account for 17 percent of the respondents. This share is an increase from the 16 percent found in 2005.

Supermarkets, restaurants combined data

Combining responses for eating chicken purchased from supermarket/retail grocery food stores and foodservice establishments presents a somewhat different picture than looking at each market channel individually. Consumers eat chicken 5.2 times during two weeks when all respondents are included and 5.6 times when non-chicken eaters are excluded. These rates compare very closely to 2005 when the survey found 4.9 times and 5.1 times, respectively. Eight percent of respondents ate no chicken when both at-home and away-from-home are combined, compared with 10 percent in 2005. Once-in-two-week eaters (light consumers) are 6 percent in 2006, 2 percentage points less than in 2005.

Medium chicken eaters (2 or 3 times) account for 25 percent of respondents, the same share as in 2005 and 2004.

Consumers who ate chicken 4 or more times during two weeks (heavy) totaled 62 percent, compared with 56 percent in 2005. Also, the 62 percent compares with 35 percent for heavy supermarket chicken eaters and 17 percent for heavy foodservice chicken eaters.

Best parts

Respondents were asked which of seven different types of chicken parts, including whole chicken, do they usually buy at their supermarket or similar retail grocery store. A number of consumers responded with more than one type of part, since up to three mentions were accepted.

Boneless, skinless breast, as a single category, was the most popular part in 2006, with 65 percent of respondents indicating boneless, skinless breasts as the part they usually purchased. By comparison when this question was asked in 2001, 59 percent of respondents listed boneless, skinless chicken breast as the usual purchased part. Whole chickens in 2006 are listed second with 28 percent. Since the question did not specify fresh or frozen only, consumers may have included fully-cooked, rotisserie chickens in their responses. Breasts, bone-in/skin-on, at 24 percent in 2006, add to the notion that white meat is most popular with consumers. However, adding responses together for legs or leg quarters, thighs and drumsticks gives a combined total of 64 percent. All parts in 2006 have higher rankings than in 2001. In 2001 respondents were also permitted to list up to three types of parts usually purchased. In 2006, combining all the responses for parts purchased gives a total of 199 percent compared with 144 percent in 2001. Consumers purchasing boneless, skinless breasts at rates significantly higher than the average respondent are women, 25-34 years of age living in the Pacific Region; they have an annual household income of $40,000 or more.

Consumption intentions positive

To gauge consumers’ plans for consumption of chicken, respondents were asked their likelihood of eating more, less or the same amount of chicken during the next 12 months. If a respondent said that he/she was likely to eat less chicken in the future, follow-up questions were asked about why he/she intended to eat less chicken. The possible answers were open-ended with more than one reason permitted.

During the next 12 months, 79 percent of respondents said they are likely to eat the same amount of chicken as they currently consume, while 14 percent said they were likely to eat more chicken and 5 percent indicated less chicken in their future.

Thus, survey results indicate a net positive of 9 percentage points (=14-5). Consumers categorized as heavy users of chicken purchased at foodservice indicate intentions to eat more chicken than the average consumer or the at-home consumer. Twenty percent so indicate compared with total respondents (14 percent), total heavy eaters (16 percent) and heavy eaters of chicken at-home (16 percent).

Results for 2006 compared with 1998 found a greater positive gain than in 1998. That is, in 2006, there is a positive gain of 9 percentage points, 14 percent likely to eat more chicken during the next 12 months, while 5 percent likely to eat less chicken. In 1998, there was a 3 percentage point net gain (=8 percent more – 5 percent less).

On a weighted basis in 2006, 5 percent or 52 respondents out of 1,000 households said they planned to eat less chicken during the next 12 months. The primary reason was “changed my way of eating/changed my diet,” with 22 percent of total respondents so indicating. For non-chicken eaters (10 respondents), this reason was given by 57 percent. “Bird flu/ afraid of bird flu” and “don’t like chicken” were tied for the second most given reason with 18 percent.

In 1998, the 5 percent of respondents who indicated they were likely to eat less chicken gave a variety of reasons for their plans. About 37 percent said they do not eat poultry or red meat and another 20 percent indicated they will be on a diet. Concerns about pathogens and bacteria were mentioned by 7 percent.■