The European Union (EU)’s poultry industry may need to count their blessings and be grateful for small mercies. Over the next decade, the industry can expect to expand by a meager 0.2% per year. That's not really a headline-grabbing figure, but compare it to the fortunes of the beef industry, where output it set to decline by 9% over the next 10 years, or the pig sector, where output is projected to fall annually by 1 percent.

According to the European Commission’s EU Agricultural Outlook 2022-2032, per capita meat consumption in the bloc is projected to fall by 1.5% per annum to 2032 but, where chicken meat consumption is concerned, at least a small increase of 0.2% per annum is forecast, meaning that, by decade end, EU consumers will each be consuming 3% more chicken.

Demand for chicken meat in the EU will grow for the reasons that we are all familiar with – a healthier image compared to other meats, ease of preparation, an absence of religious constraints and its relatively cheaper price.

But given the advantages of chicken, why can’t European producers expect a higher growth rate?  In part, this will be due to the E.U. being a mature market, but the European Commission cites not only changes in consumption habits, but also environmental restrictions and highly pathogenic avian influenza changing from being a seasonal to a year-round problem.

The pre-pandemic days when the European industry expanded by 2% would seem to be a long time ago, but at least the industry will reverse 2022’s contraction.

Overseas cheer?

And there may be some slightly brighter news where exports are concerned, but there will be no repeat of the industry’s pre-pandemic achievements.

Overseas sales are forecast to grow by 0.8% per annum, with key destinations being Sub-Saharan Africa, the Philippines and the U.K. While the industry’s performance may be a little stronger in foreign markets, the commission warns that the E.U. will find it increasingly difficult to compete against low cost producers such as Brazil.

And perhaps a little extra cheer for the E.U.’s producers. While prices are expected to decrease, they will, at least remain above levels achieved pre-pandemic, and while consumers won’t be eating as much pork or beef, they will, at least, be eating a little more chicken.