There is a strong correlation between real income growth and meat consumption regardless of country. Consequently the global economic recession will undoubtedly have an adverse impact on meat demand. How poultry meat will fare remains to be seen but in poor developing countries there is the likelihood that a section of the population will switch away from meat back to vegetarian dishes and this will impact negatively on poultry meat uptake. However, developed economies will likely witness a move away from more expensive to cheaper meats, which should boost chicken demand. In some economies the recession has led to a move away from eating-out to eating-at-home, which could benefit chicken sales.

Even in countries where total poultry meat uptake might increase, the average quantity eaten/person could still decline, as the rise in available supplies might fail to match population growth. Hence, our estimate of the average uptake of chicken worldwide this year slips a little to around 11.4kg/person.

Disease debacle

Underlining the point that we now live in a global environment where events beyond our control can have a dramatic impact on our market, we saw how outbreaks of avian influenza in recent years depressed the demand for chicken. Now chicken meat sales could benefit from outbreaks of the H1N1 influenza, wrongly called “Swine Flu”. The 2009 H1N1 Flu is a new hybrid flue virus, which is being publicised by the media as “Swine Flu” when it has not been detected in pigs! Although the disease has only been spread by human-to-human contact and not be eating meat, the USA has lost 10 of its pork export markets, according to the American Meat Institute. That both the press and television media persist in referring to the virus by the misnomer “Swine Flu”, is almost certain to have a negative influence on pig meat purchases.

Sadly, the FAO has not released any more recent chicken consumption data since 2005. When comparing these with the figures released 10 years earlier, it is clear that, in almost every country in the world, chicken uptake has increased significantly. It is also evident that the annual increases when expressed on a per person basis are, in most instances, small. Indeed, our calculation of the global picture indicates an annual average increase of just 0.2kg/person since 2000.

To give a more recent snapshot of the trend in consumption we have presented the USDA estimates for selected countries from 2003 to 2009 (see table). It should be noted that these were released last October and that, in some instances, the 2009 estimates could now be revised downwards a little to allow for the impact of the recession which was only starting to bite at the time the forecasts were made,.

Chicken uptake expansion

That there is a wide range in the levels of consumption/person is evident from both these and the FAO figures, the average ranging from little more than 1kg in some countries to more than 60kg in others. Note that, in some instances, the averages are higher than they should be when related to the domestic population because of the influx of a relatively large numbers of tourists.

Nevertheless, the long-term outlook for chicken consumption is extremely favourable. Emphasising this we have included with the USDA data, the FAPRI forecasts for 2018, which underline the continued expansion in chicken uptake.

Sadly, the few up-to-date figures we have been able to present on turkey meat consumption/person do not make happy reading.

Brazil bucks trend

Average uptake in the USA, where producers have cut back output sharply in the face of rapid increases in feed and energy costs, will certainly decline this year, while the picture for the European Union, Mexico and Canada, can at best, be described as static in recent years.

The only bright spot appears to be Brazil where the trend has definitely been upwards with average consumption this year possibly exceeding 1.6kg/person compared with 0.9kg back in 2003.