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Chicken prices soar over uptick in demand, local experts say

Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 9:45 PM CDT
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WEST, Texas (KWTX) - The coronavirus pandemic has touched pretty much every industry and caused a lot of shortages, however, it’s also increased demand for many products including chicken.

“We’ve been through some really interesting times, and the price of poultry products has really gone up,” said Tracy Tomascik, Associate Director of Government Affairs for the Texas Farm Bureau.

Tomascik, who specializes in livestock and animal health issues, says chicken and eggs are the number two livestock entity in Texas behind cattle.

“We have a really robust industry for poultry and eggs in Texas,” said Tomascik.

According to the Associated Press, in 2020 chicken cost approximately $1.13/lb, but since April, prices have soared to above $1.80/lb.

“We really haven’t seen that kind of a jump in recent history,” said Tomascik.

In addition to the boom in broiler chickens, local poultry farmer Ken Smotherman says, due to the pandemic, he’s had a boom in hen and egg sales.

“We’ve had people from Colorado, East, Texas, and Houston come here,” said Smotherman, owner of Smotherman Farms. “People were having a shortage of eggs so they were coming to us and buying laying hens to produce their own, so it actually helped us.”

Smotherman says he’s sold about 4,000 laying hens over the past year and has about 2,000 more he needs to sell to get started on next year’s flock.

While hen and egg sales went up, he said after Winter Storm Uri, the price of feed skyrocketed.

“Before the great freeze our feed was $305 a ton, and it went up to $500 a ton--that’s a lot,” said Smotherman. “The integrators, they work so close to the bottom line that it’s a big deal, and it’s a big deal for us for sure.”

Tomascik said the poultry industry took hits from the storm and COVID-19, however, it recovered quickly and prices started going up.

He says the reasons why are complex.

“From the 30k foot standpoint there’s a simple answer: and that’s folks had additional money to spend and poultry, chicken tastes good and it’s easy to prepare, and on top of that, overall demand,” said Tomascik. “Compounding it is the food supply chain, we had some challenges over the last six months, we had some setbacks here in Texas with the winter storm, that slowed down production and obviously the ability to get to places and get chicken products processed and transported to retail and restaurants, but we’ve straightened out from that scenario and things have gotten a lot better.”

Better for producers and the consumer, he says.

“The really interesting part of it, across the U.S. so far in 2021, we’re out producing what we produced in 2020, and we’re still seeing those high prices, it just goes to show it’s truly consumer demand that’s diving up prices,” said Tomascik. “We’re coming down off the summer peak demand and I imagine that things will settle down in regards to pricing, unless there’s some other catastrophic black swan event in our future...we should have a very steady supply and a supply that’s bigger than it was last year, so prices are not expected to go up much higher than this, if at all.”

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