With production costs rising, consumers could soon find themselves paying as much for chicken as they do beef, according to outgoing Co-op Chief Executive Steve Murrells.
Mounting poultry feed prices have become a huge problem for the industry, Murrells told listeners at the Retail & eCommerce Directors’ Forum. “Chicken could become as expensive as beef,” he said. “[Chicken price] is rising quicker than any other protein”.
The cost of chicken feed has risen by up to 50% in the last two years thanks to a maelstrom of circumstances ranging from Covid-related labour shortages to increasing fuel prices. The current situation is also in part a consequence of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Some of the primary ingredients in traditional feed are soya, sunflower meal (a by-product of sunflower oil production) and wheat. With Russia being the largest exporter of wheat in the world, and Ukraine the top producer of sunflower oil, the conflict has had a huge impact on poultry farmers around the world.
Because of its relative affordability, chicken is the UK’s most popular meat – with consumption levels far surpassing that of beef, pork and lamb.
But consumers were cautioned against the rising cost of chicken late last year by the UK’s biggest poultry supplier. 2 Sisters Food Group owner Ranjit Singh Boparan said the price of the meat would have to increase to reflect rising production costs.
“How can it be right that a whole chicken costs less than a pint of beer?” said Singh Boparan at the time.
According to the ONS, the price of chicken has risen by nearly 12% in the past year alone. Given that the cost of living in the UK has already risen substantially, the price hike is likely to hit poorer families the most.
“Customers will have to be savvy about what they can afford,” said Steve Murrell. “They’ll buy a chicken, they’ll have it for a roast on a Sunday, but then they’ll use the giblets and whatever to make a soup. Customers will find creative ways of making food last longer.”
Murrell also said the situation could push more people to buy vegan alternatives or other meats if prices continue to increase.
Beyond home cooking, the increase in chicken prices has also impacted out of home dining.
Fast food chains Nando’s and KFC have both raised their prices in recent months, with a spokesperson for the former telling The Sun the 8% price hike was down to “the continued rise in the cost of ingredients and the difficult trading environment caused by Covid”.