Per-capita consumption of chicken in the U.S. is increasing again after three years of decline driven by the economic recession, reduced domestic availability due to exports and increased feed costs, according to Bernard Leonard, chairman of the National Chicken Council.

“As the economy continues to recover, total sales this year at restaurants are expected to increase 3% to 4% (unadjusted for inflation) and flat to 1% if you take inflation into consideration,” said Leonard. “Chicken will share in that improvement along with other meats.” The demand for chicken at home is also expected to continue to be strong, said Leonard, citing research showing that chicken was the most popular choice for dinner at home in 2010. “We expect to continue to build on that level of popularity,” he said.


Consumption per capita of chicken dropped in 2007, 2008 and 2009, with consumers eating less chicken than they did the year before — a consumption drop for three years in a row is unprecedented. “That had never happened before since the U.S. Department of Agriculture started keeping records for broiler consumption in 1935,” said Leonard. “The combined loss for those three years was 6.7 pounds.”  But in 2010, consumption increased 2.5 pounds to 83.6 pounds per person.

Consumption of red meat, on the other hand, has declined over a longer term, with consumption dropping from 141 pounds per capita in the 1970s to a projected 106.4 pounds in 2011. That would leave red meat consumption at its lowest point since 1935, when it was about 102 pounds per person, said Leonard. “We have a long-term trend of increased consumption of chicken and a long-term trend of reduced consumption of red meat, and both categories took a hit during the last few years."