There would appear to be a pretty positive year ahead for the poultry industry. 

While some Asian economies may be slowing somewhat, they still remain in positive territory. Although there may be concerns about levels of indebtedness in China, the government will, no doubt, find a way through and continue to expand the economy. 

There is now sustained encouraging news from some Western economies, even if often tempered with a note of caution.

While the return to growth in developed countries is not universal, there are certainly some bright spots that have emerged reasonably solidly over the last 12 months. And given the interconnected nature of the modern world, an improvement in one country’s market will inevitably have an influence on its trading partners. 

Added to this, feed costs have come down from their highs and many governments around the world are trying to foster investment in an attempt to either get their economies on the move again, or sustain what is already happening.

Care and attention

It would be foolish, however, to think that the outlook is completely positive. While globally there is a need for more food, in many parts of the world affordability remains an issue. Equally, in others, oversupply could become an issue. If poultry production is not carefully managed, then producers could damage their profitability through attempting to sell too much. 

Of course, markets do not operate strictly on price. With many consumers increasingly favoring locally produced food, and increasingly with the ability to satisfy their preferences not simply their needs, poultry production in some parts of the world will receive a boost not necessarily related to economic efficiency alone. 

Quality, perception and reputation

As consumers, we are rarely as logical or wise in our purchasing decisions as we like to think we are. 

For some goods and services, certain brands or countries of origin are seen as better than others, while for some products, there is a definite preference for domestically produced items. The key here is the association with quality. 

Whatever our purchasing ability, we all want the best quality possible within the limits of our budget. This is a key point to remember for any industry, but where food is concerned, it is perhaps even more important.  We all want disease-free, safely produced, nutritious food.  

One only has to look at recent reports — and the online comments attached to these reports — of bacterial contamination of meat and consumer disillusionment over perceived standards to see that failure to live up to consumer expectations can result in severe criticism and decisions to buy elsewhere. 

So perhaps the watchwords for 2014 will be "caution" and "quality." Care needs to be taken right along the production chain, from how much is produced and how it is produced, through to how product is presented to the consumer, and consumer expectations are met and managed.

Better times may be ahead, but it would be a shame to waste them!