Religion and inflation pave the way for chicken to dominate meat consumption
Projections indicate that by 2030, humanity will eat more poultry than any other animal protein.
Chicken is consolidating itself as the most consumed meat in the world. For years, the position has been comfortably occupied by pork protein, which is the favorite on the planet’s most populous continent, Asia. However, for a few years now, this leadership began to be challenged, which involves factors as diverse as price, healthy habits and even religion.
Projections made by the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) indicate that, by the end of the decade, humanity will eat more poultry than any other type of animal protein.
In 2030, they should represent 41% of all consumption, opening even more distance in relation to pigs (34%), cattle (20%) and sheep (5%). Fish do not count.
According to the study, consumption of all meats will increase by 14% over the next eight years, driven by population growth. In this scenario, however, chicken stands out for its greater expansion.
Being the cheapest of animal proteins helps explain this projection, especially in low-income countries. Food inflation usually weighs on meat, favoring the choice of chicken.
In China, for example, pork continues to be preferred, but rising prices have led to an increase in poultry consumption. In Brazil it is no different. Here, protein is already the main one and should represent 51% of all consumption in 2022.
Considering the possibility of a global inflationary cycle that lasts for years — as predicted by economists in Davos — chicken should remain on the shopping lists.
But the price can also be favorable from another perspective: the increase in global income.
According to Ricardo Santin, president of ABPA (Brazilian Association of Animal Protein), more families should enter the consumption zone over the next few years. “We know that out of the first $10 a person starts earning extra, coming out of the poverty line, $6 goes towards food,” he says.
The fact that it is more accessible, however, only explains part of this rise. Santin recalls that the consumption of poultry does not suffer any religious restrictions around the world, unlike what happens with cattle and swine. Therefore, there is a tendency for other proteins to stabilize, which will continue to grow, but not at the same pace as chicken meat.
Dirceu Talamini, a researcher at Embrapa, also mentions this aspect when explaining the OECD projection. Islam, for example, is the fastest growing religion in the world and its followers do not eat pork, as do the Jews. “It is a very large contingent of the population that ends up having restrictions”, he says.
Another factor that must be taken into account, in the researcher’s view, is health. In high-income countries, eating habits are also changing, indicating a greater preference for white meats — which are perceived as a better choice.
“In some places, pork is seen as less healthy meat. Of course, in Asia, especially in China, it is still the favorite, but when we look at the world as a whole, chicken has this advantage of not having religious or health restrictions and still having a very affordable price”, he says.
Growing demand boosted production
Over the past 50 years, global poultry production has increased rapidly, growing more than 12 times between 1961 and 2014. Santin, president of ABPA, attributes this to a number of factors, such as lower land requirements and high conversion of the kilogram of ration in kilo of meat —which reduces costs.
“To increase cattle production, for example, it is not enough for the producer to increase the weight, it is necessary to have more land, more pasture or more confinement. It’s similar with pigs”, he says. “In chicken farming, there is a natural density and also a better use of resources: it needs less water, less feed and less energy”, he adds.
Another important aspect, he says, is production time. While cattle and swine farming require cycles of one or two years, in poultry farming this period is 45 days, on average.
Brazil has a strategic position
Currently, Brazil is the number one chicken exporter and the second largest global producer. According to Santin, this is due to the good weather conditions, which favor the creation of these animals. “In cold countries, you have to heat the chicken to be able to breed it, while in the Middle East you have to cool it with air conditioning,” he says.
Talamini, from Embrapa, also adds the fact that Brazil is an important producer of soy and corn, which are basic inputs.
The researcher, who carried out a study on the evolution of poultry farming in Brazil, also highlights that the Brazilian model was imported from the US in the 1960s, already in a standardized way, with genetic improvement, quality feed and adequate size aviaries.
Production, he says, evolved in an integration system, in which producers provide property and labor, while companies coordinate the model. “Adding together the efficiency of the organization and the technology used, production was established and grew a lot”, he says.
The numbers support this perception. According to ABPA, in the first four months of 2022 alone, Brazil increased the volume of its chicken exports by 9% and revenue by 32% — indicating that the world is not only buying more Brazilian poultry, but paying more as well. .
JBS is one of the companies that stand out in this market. In the ranking of the largest chicken producers in the world, prepared by Watt Poultry, the slaughterhouse appears in first place, with 4.4 billion heads of chicken slaughtered annually.
The company, which owns Seara, says its strategy is based on protein diversification, and that it is ready to meet the demand of a population that is expected to reach 10 billion in 2050.
“Because of this population growth and the increased presence of chicken in the diet of families, we are expanding and modernizing 15 Seara factories in Brazil,” he said in a statement. According to the company, the projects will be ready by the beginning of 2023.
The second place in the Watt Poultry ranking is also Brazilian: BRF (owner of the Sadia and Perdigão brands). In 2021, the company claims to have slaughtered 1.7 billion birds.
According to Leonardo Dall’Orto, vice president of international market and planning at BRF, the balance between production and demand for chicken has fluctuated. He says that by 2021, there was an oversupply of chicken.
“This year, due to some events such as the avian flu in the US and Europe, this was reversed. Today we have a chain with more demand than supply”, he says.
However, he points out that the shorter poultry cycle allows the industry to react quickly to this change.
In the case of BRF, which has a strong presence in the Middle East, Japan and South Korea, he says that the company has announced an investment plan that provides for new production lines.
“We are attentive to this movement and we are investing year after year, optimizing our industrial park with technology to increase capacity”, he says.