This is my last "Poultry Perspective" column. I want to thank Greg Watt and WATT Global Media for the opportunity to write about this fascinating industry for the last 30 years in Watt PoultryUSA and Broiler Industry . In addition, I want to thank Gary Thornton, my editor for most of that time. Even though he almost never used my suggestions for article titles, he is a true gentleman and a great journalist.
As I leave the column writing business, the industry is in fine shape. With low grain prices and high chicken prices, the profitability of the poultry industry has rarely, if ever, been better. The future will bring plenty of ups and downs, but at least for the moment, times are good and are likely to remain so for many months.
The last 30 years marked the successful transformation of the industry from one characterized by mostly whole and cut-up, bone-in chicken to one characterized by deboned and value-added products. In the process, chicken became the king of meats in the U.S., although not quite yet worldwide.
Factors in industry’s success
The success of the U.S. broiler chicken industry can be attributed in large part to the declining cost of production. Thanks to genetic improvement in grain and chickens, better nutrition, improved animal health, superior housing and economies of scale, the cost of live production, when adjusted for inflation, is now just half of what it was 30 years ago. The chicken industry in many ways is like the computer industry. They both use advanced technology to lower the cost of their products to consumers.
It is not just innovation and technology. The right leaders are needed. The industry was (and is) blessed with people that were (and are) able to harness these technological improvements. Over the last 40 years, I had the privilege to meet and work with some remarkable leaders: Frank and Jim Perdue, Don Tyson, Don Jackson, Joe Frank Sanderson and Bo Pilgrim, as well as chicken breeder Henry Saglio; NCC economist, Bill Roenigk; and the indomitable chicken trade diplomat, Jim Sumner.
What happens now? I am amazed at the genetic progress and other efficiencies that continue to be achieved by the industry. The cost of production continues to decline, the popularity of chicken continues to rise worldwide and chicken is even more sustainable than other meats. I would not hesitate to recommend this industry to any young person looking for a challenging and rewarding career.