Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Eating Less Chicken Due to the Recession?

Just in time for Thanksgiving. At first, this report about layoffs at some chicken processing plants down in Alabama looked pretty routine:
More than 360 employees at two Wayne Farms facilities in Morgan County may be laid off around Christmastime, company officials said.

Wayne plans to eliminate as many as 5 of the 6 lines at the Further Processing East plant at 110 Plugs Drive in Decatur., Additional layoffs will come from the Further Processing West plant next door.
But then there was this little tidbit:
The plants make cooked and prepared chicken products, sold to restaurants and grocery stores. Officials say there's a reduced demand for chicken, leading to the cuts.
A "reduced demand for chicken?" Sure make you wonder doesn't it. Maybe it struck a chord with me because my own father had a lifelong aversion to chicken. He developed his distaste for poultry growing up as a child in the latter half of the Great Depression when the only meat the family could afford was chicken. My dad ate steaks his whole adult life, usually ones he grilled himself. As kids, my brothers and I found our dad's aversion to chicken to be amusing, and to taunt him sometimes we'd answer "Kentucky Fried Chicken!" when he would ask us where we wanted to go eat.

The only logical reason demand for such a basic meat staple could be dropping is that people are getting too poor to afford it anymore. Because it sure isn't due to them suddenly all being able to afford to run out and buy steak.


  1. We didn't eat much chicken when I was kid either, for the same reason — my dad had gotten sick of it in his own youth. Even though he only made a teacher's wage and there were six of us, we ate mostly beef and pork, when chicken was cheaper. We DID eat "city chicken." Ever hear of it? Veal and pork on a wooden stick. Ask your Polish friends.

    I told my dad's mother once, "Dad doesn't like chicken." She said, "Really?? Your grandpa loved it, we ate it almost everyday!" Ha ha

  2. Drop in demand for chicken, probably the cheapest meat available – can't think of a much better indicator of the times we're entering.

  3. @Patrick - Egads, "city chicken?" My dad REALLY would have hated that! But then again, we're German by ancestry. :)

  4. People are getting poorer...AND meat of any sort is getting more expensive. Speaking as a chicken farmer, I can tell you, the feed has gone up so much, they should be laying golden eggs.

  5. Interestingly, here in Nova Scotia, Chicken (for some strange reason) is way more expensive than beef or pork

  6. Just you watch. It won't be long until the BEA substitutes hot dogs or cereal or peanut butter or something else for chicken, claims it represents a "cultural shift", and then counts it as a reduction in CPI (because the basket of goods got cheaper). This is how our government statistics work. They've already done it with steak to chicken/pork. Now chicken/pork to something else is next.

    Our ability to lie to ourselves is absolutely boundless.

  7. @bmerson - yeah, but how long before they start substituting Soylent Green? :)

  8. Interesting. There has been a 30-year trend in the USA for meat production to steadily increase, along with the general increase in food production (see e.g., Figure 7 of I took a look at the contribution from "poultry meat" and it seems to follow that same general trend. So, if overall production really is down, then this will be a break from that 30-year trend. Dang, I which I had some more recent data from FAOSTAT!