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Chicken reaches Americans' tables at cheapest prices in decade

February 27, 2018

America’s favorite meat is the cheapest it’s been in at least 12 years.

In the U.S., the average retail price for chicken breast fell to $3.073 a pound in January, the lowest since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began collecting the data in 2006. Costs have been falling since 2013 thanks to a boom in grain supplies that’s made it cheaper to feed birds and helped increase production.

Output of other proteins is also on the rise, and U.S. supplies of red meat and poultry are set to reach a record. The outlook for bigger beef and pork production are helping to keep those costs lower and “should keep chicken prices in check,” according to a report Monday from Morgan Stanley.

All that meat is likely providing retailers an opportunity to run features that benefit consumers’ wallets, but also presents a challenge to the chicken industry, Russ Whitman, vice president of the poultry division at researcher Urner Barry, said in an email.

“It’s really good for consumers right now,” Dewey Warner, a Chicago-based analyst for Euromonitor, said in a telephone interview. “I don’t see consumption slowing down for chicken with prices being so low.”

But the good times may not last. In the year ahead, consumers might pay higher prices amid a potential uptick in inflation as well as rising distribution costs because of a trucker shortage, Warner said.

U.S. per-capita chicken consumption will be 92.5 pounds this year, according to a forecast from the National Chicken Council, compared to 57.9 pounds for beef and 50.9 pounds for pork.

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