Poultry producers are pulling back their egg sets, according to a new survey.

In the second quarter of 2020, more than 75% of respondents to the WATT/Rennier Poultry Confidence Index said they are reducing egg sets due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States and around the world.

As part of the quarterly survey, WATT Global Media is asking additional questions about the state of the poultry industry as well as emerging trends, technologies and challenges. This blog post reflects the results of the supplemental questions included in the second quarter survey conducted in May 2020. The next installment of Dr. Greg Rennier’s column reflecting the results of this survey will be published in the August 2020 issue of WATT PoultryUSA.

COVID-19 and the poultry industry

COVID-19 is a major challenge for the U.S. economy as well as the rest of the world. As the disease caused by the virus spread from China to the rest of the world in the beginning of 2020, many countries were placed under temporary lockdowns. The pause in daily life caused serious shocks to the domestic and global economy and the effects may linger on.

In the U.S., the meat supply chain became a topic of serious focus as animal protein processors shuttered plants in response to outbreaks at the facilities. Also, foodservice and restaurant demand for poultry fell dramatically as people stayed home. How the future will look is uncertain.

We asked, “Has your operation done any of the following in response to COVID-19? (Please check all that apply)”

  • 76.9% responded, “Reduced egg sets.”
  • 38.5% responded, “Depopulated animals in the field.”
  • 34.6% responded, “Depopulated breeder flocks ahead of schedule.”
  • 19.2% responded, “Cancelled grower contracts.”

We asked, “How has COVID-19 impacted the slaughter schedule at your processing plant? (Please check all that apply)”

  • 27.5% responded, “Have run one or more Saturdays.”
  • 27.5% responded, “Run on or more day at reduced line speeds.”
  • 21.6% responded, “Have not processed on one or more weekdays.”
  • 15.7% responded, “Processed birds from other complexes.”
  • 13.7% responded, “Shipped birds from our operation to be processed at another plant.”
  • 11.8% responded, “Run a regular weekday schedule.”
  • 37.3% responded, “Not applicable”

We asked, “As of May 2020, parts of the United States as well as European and Asian countries are reducing or relaxing some social distancing requirements, but the virus is far from eradicated and a vaccine does not yet exist. How long do you expect COVID-19 to impact your operations?”

  • 24.1% responded, “Until the end of 2020.”
  • 24.1% responded, “Until the end of 2021.”
  • 15.5% responded, “Until the end of fall 2020.”
  • 10.3% responded, “Until the end of summer 2020.”
  • 10.3% responded, “COVID-19 is not significantly affecting my business.”
  • 8.6% responded, “Forever.”
  • 6.9% responded, “Three years or more from now.”

View our continuing coverage of the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.