Most of the poultry industry is negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the results of a new survey.

In the first quarter of 2022, respondents to the WATT/Rennier Poultry Confidence Index survey said their business was hurt by the global health crisis now stretching into its third year.

As part of the quarterly survey, WATT Global Media asks 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 first quarter survey conducted in February 2022. The next installment of Greg Rennier’s column reflecting the results of the survey will be published in the April 2022 issue of WATT PoultryUSA.

COVID on the retreat?

March 2022 marks yet another year of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Vaccines are available and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says more than 65% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated against the disease.

Across the nation, restrictions are easing and concern about the pandemic is decreasing. Nevertheless, according to the CDC, more than 79 million Americans contracted the disease and more than 955,000 died from it since March 2020.

For the poultry industry, COVID-19 is not as scary as it once was thanks to scientific advances, institutional changes made in response to the disease and a general recovery of foodservice demand from 2020 lows. At this point, it remains a nuisance for its varied and random impacts on the global supply chain that drive up prices across the board.

We asked, “The COVID-19 pandemic continues in the U.S. and around the world, with March 2022 marking two full years of COVID in the U.S., which assessment of the disease situation most closely matches your views?”

  • 51.20% responded, “COVID-19 is a concern for me and my business and it negatively affected my business and will likely continue to negatively affect my business going forward. “ 
  • 18.60% responded, “COVID-19 is a concern for me and my business, but it has not and will likely not significantly impact my business going forward.”        
  • 16.30% responded, “I am unconcerned with COVID-19.”                 
  • 14.00% responded, “COVID-19 is a concern for me and my business, but it has positively affected my business and will likely continue to positively affect my business going forward.”   

We asked, “In your opinion, how much longer will COVID-19 be an issue of concern in the global poultry economy?”

  • 44.4% responded, “COVID-19 will be an issue of concern until the end of 2022.”
  • 33.30 responded, “COVID-19, and its variants, will always be an issue of concern for the global poultry industry.” 
  • 17.8% responded, “COVID-19 will be an issue of concern until the middle of this decade (2025).”                 
  • 4.4% responded, “COVID-19 is no longer an issue of concern for the global poultry industry.”        

Reacting to breast meat issues

The chicken industry is dogged by breast meat myopathies both scientific review and animal activists say are linked to the high growth rate of modern broiler birds. Conditions like woody breast, white striping, spaghetti meat, green breast and so-called stringy spongy breast affect the breast and the tender.

While consumers are generally unaware of the issue, low quality meat is a loser for everyone. Pressure exists on all fronts of the industry to solve the issue.

We asked, “What actions, if any, has your company/complex taken to reduce breast meat myopathies such as woody breast or white striping?”

  • 58.1% responded, “No changes.”
  • 20.9% responded, “Reduced average slaughter weights.”
  • 11.6% responded, “Increase micronutrient and antioxidant levels in the diet.”
  • 9.30% responded, “Reduced energy and protein levels in feeds to slow growth.”
  • 4.7% responded, “Changed the lighting program.”
  • 14% responded “Other” and, when specifying, most said this question did not apply to them. Among those responses were, “Changed the male in some locations.”

We asked, “Please select the response that best describes the incidence and severity of breast meat myopathies in birds processed at your complex in the last 12 months.”

  • 44.70% responded, “Stayed the same.”
  • 23.70% responded, “Decreased.”
  • 23.70% responded, “We process small birds and has never been an issue.”
  • 5.30% responded, “We process big birds and has never been an issue.”
  • 2.60% responded, “Increased.”