Chicken rises to the top of the food chain

Global chicken consumption has doubled since 1999 and in less than a decade humans will consume more chicken than any other protein.

This forecast comes in a Bloomberg report, quoting US government data.

Food price inflation has accelerated a worldwide switch from beef and pork to chicken. The growth in chicken consumption in the past two decades is more than three times the growth rate of pork and 10 times that of beef. Global chicken consumption is expected to reach 98 million tonnes this year, and chicken is on track to account for 41% of all meat-eating by 2030.

The shift to poultry in major economies from Brazil to China is speeding up as inflation makes red meat too expensive for more of the world’s population.

In the United States, rapidly rising demand has resulted in shortages at restaurants. In Asia, chicken is displacing pork — the traditional meat of celebrations, everyday cooking, and dining out. Some restaurants in China no longer serve pork, which would have been unthinkable only a few years ago.

Demand is rising in other areas, from Europe to South Africa to Mexico, the report says. Because chickens grow so quickly – they are ready for slaughter at six weeks – poultry is also more climate friendly than beef, which is often criticised for the greenhouse gas emissions generated by raising cattle.

If the future of meat protein is indeed chicken, then South Africa’s ambition to become a major poultry exporter couldn’t come soon enough.

Yes, the poultry master plan is going a long way to stabilise the local industry after years of dumped imports, but turning South Africa into a global poultry exporter will require bold action.

It would be prudent for government to remember that serious agricultural subsidies and financial incentives are what created giant exporters like Brazil in the first place.