Is it size or performance that really matters? Perhaps it’s a combination of both.

Swedish university researchers a couple of years ago published data showing that hens with larger combs were more attractive to roosters, while males blessed with a bigger comb were more dominant. Notwithstanding how well-endowed a chicken may be, if it performs like a panda, it won’t get very far!

Size matters not only in nature but also in the commercial world – and egg, chick and poultry meat producers are no exception.

Size advantage

In any industry, larger companies tend to have more resources. These may allow them to invest more, promote their brands more widely, enjoy economies of scale, and generally achieve greater influence and greater reach – be it with suppliers or customers.

Once a certain size is reached, performance and efficiency and are not always as important as the proponents of free markets might have us believe.

A large cash pile can quickly be put to good use to buy out a more efficient, but smaller competitor. No matter how efficient or innovative an established smaller player may be, or how innovative a new entrant, size wins.

Of course, this is not always the case. There are companies that, from relatively humble and small beginnings have very quickly grown into major players. Their rise is often fascinating, and we all like a success story.

There are one or two Brazilian companies, for example, that, not so very long ago were national, if not only regional names, but are now known worldwide.

And equally, there are those companies that, despite their scale and the advantages that this should bring, fail due by not keeping up with a changing world. Recent successes and contrasting failures in the French market attest to the need to move with the times.

Who’s on top?

So what is happening with the biggest players in the poultry industry? Who is on top this year, who has conquered more markets and who has made successful overtures to competitors?

Every October, Poultry International publishes details of which are the biggest poultry producers in the world. The World’s Top Poultry edition is the culmination of a year’s hard work, and 2014 sees the project enter its sixth year.

The October edition lists 350 companies, drawn from the much larger on-line database that now covers over 1,000 companies and contains details of whose sales are up, whose have gone down, who is investing and who is entering into joint ventures.

The hard-working team behind this project looks at every available source and uses that data not only to populate the database, but also to create lists of who are the key companies in various regions and globally.

The project certainly focuses on size, but performance is not ignored. And while companies must have certain scale to be included, failing performance is taken into account during the selection process. The Poultry International Top Poultry Companies edition is the most- read issue of the year, proof enough, that there’s always an interest in who has overtaken whom, who has reached the top – size matters!

Mark Clements can be reached at