The cumulative score from the WATT/Rennier Poultry Confidence Index's (PCI) top-three indices has been historically high during the last three quarters of 2013. They are three of the highest six cumulative scores since we launched this metric in 1996.

The Overall Index now stands at 140.9 (1996=100), up from 130.0 last quarter. The Present Situation Index increased to 153.0 from 133.9. The Expectations Index likewise climbed to 132.9 from 127.4.

As the opening line of one of my favorite books, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, says, "It was the best of times." It seems appropriate given the recent state of the U.S. poultry industry.

Confidence drivers

The primary driver behind this renewed confidence has been a decline in feed costs. Due to record corn harvests, the mean cost per ton of broiler feed (without color) has declined from a high in January 2013 of $391 to $358 in September 2013, according to The Poultry Informed Professional.

Secondary drivers include:

-Declining or manageable energy costs.  Although gasoline is slightly higher now than in January 2013, the price has remained fairly stable, allowing producers to better anticipate their costs. Propane prices have been well below year-ago levels.

-Constraints in production.  Broiler production increases were moderate, while turkey production was down 8.5 percent on average.


-Record exports.  Broiler meat exports have been up 4 percent

-Renewed investment.  There have been numerous reports about potential new complexes, modernizations and acquisitions of existing facilities. 

A few concerns on the horizon include:

-Stagnant consumer economy.  The Consumer Confidence Index declined moderately in September 2013 and sharply in October 2013. Its Overall Index remains well below the norm. Consumers have been spooked by the federal government shutdown, debt ceiling discussions, healthcare concerns and a soft job market. Confidence is likely to remain volatile in the near future as these issues remain on the table.

-Signs of rising production.  There are signs of increased broiler production during the fourth quarter. After hovering around a 1 percent increase for most of 2013, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is predicting a 3 percent increase during the latter part of 2013 and most of 2014.

The poultry industry has recently experienced the best of times. Although most of the drivers will remain positive, confidence could soften in the near future. The key to continued optimism will be an improving consumer economy, steady or declining input costs and only moderate increases in production.