Chicken prices hit an all time high in 2021. 

In a WATT Poultry Chat interview, Mark Jordan, executive director of LEAP Market Analytics, analyzed current and past chicken prices as well as competing proteins. He found that the price of other meat rose across the board, too.

Austin Alonzo: Looking back on last year, we had very high chicken prices. How do they compare with historic highs?

Mark Jordan: Well I think the first thing to think about, and I've got a slide here to give a little historical perspective. But the first thing we think about in looking at prices, is to break it down in terms of nominal and real prices. Nominal, of course, just being the actual price, the dollar amount paid in that given time frame. And then also adjusting those prices in real terms, which is basically adjusting for broader inflation within the economy. So I've done that here. The U.S. Department of Agriculture does not provide a estimate of a composite cut out value for broilers. So, I've done that, with what I kind of know about some commonly held understanding of yields, and things like that and applying transparent prices from USDA to those cuts, and estimated that and I have this on an average annual basis going back about a quarter of a century. 

And what we see, in nominal terms, chicken prices in 2021, we're at an all time high, by my calculations, some others might come up with something a little bit different. But applying a fairly well understood methodology, my estimate is that the wholesale value of chicken was about $1.10 a pound in aggregate. That takes again that takes again into account all of the various cuts. In real terms, so and this is based in 2020 dollars, still very high historically. Now we go back all the way to 2004 was the last time that prices were actually higher. And as we can see here, if you go a little bit further back into the mid to late 90s, you'll see prices a little bit higher than what we had in 2021 as well, again, adjusted for inflation, but 2021 however you slice it was a year of very high prices for chicken.

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Austin Alonzo: How do chicken prices compare with competing proteins, given the widespread rise in meat prices?

Mark Jordan: In thinking about prices, what makes a price high or low. It's always on a relative basis, relative to prices throughout the economy or to other similar goods. And again, looking at a little bit more information. Here I've got chicken, that estimated cut out value and I shrunk the timeframe up a little bit the last 15 years and look at chicken relative to beef, pork and turkey. Beef and pork, of course, we do get a composite cut out value estimate from USDA. Turkey relies on some similar methodologies we apply to chicken. USDA does not provide that, so I apply the same methodology to chicken just to that particular species. 

What we see is chicken, now if you look in the last few years, chicken is a little bit high relative to the last few for beef and turkey. Chickens at its highest relative value to those two since 2017. For pork, it's the highest of 2012. But even there, the deviations are not strong. And if you look back again over a little bit longer time horizon, chicken is not wildly overvalued or mispriced relative to these other proteins. So what, what that's telling us is that chicken is high price, it's been high priced this past year, but these other proteins had been very strong as well. And really, what we're seeing is just high prices across the protein segments.

This transcript edited for length and clarity.