2014: The Year the Chicken Beat the Bull
Life + Money

2014: The Year the Chicken Beat the Bull

With the staggering rise of beef prices this past year, poultry -- especially chicken --  is the top choice on Americans’ shopping lists. Americans have favored chicken as a broad category over beef in their diet since the early 1990s and the trend has only continued since then.

The National Chicken Council predicts that in 2014, Americans will have consumed 157 percent more chicken per capita compared to 50 years ago based on USDA data; while Americans will have consumed 27 percent less beef per capita in 2014, compared to 50 years ago. While Americans

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Additionally, for first time in over 100 years, the per capita consumption of boneless chicken in the U.S. has surpassed that of beef, according to a Priceonomics article from about a year ago citing data from USDA.

This is all mostly due to rising beef prices and concerns about health and fat consumption.

The price of a pound of a boneless USDA Choice steak rose about 19 percent between October 2013 and October 2014 to $6. Meanwhile, the price of a pound of fresh whole chicken only rose 0.4 percent to $1.50 and the price of a pound of boneless chicken breast actually fell 4.5 percent to $3.48.

“The beef prices are at record high because cattle herd is low,” said Tom Super, vice president of communications at the National Chicken Council. “Consumers are looking for value in terms of proteins.”

Higher feed costs and a major drought in 2012 have decimated cattle herds in the U.S. and it takes a lot longer to rebuild cattle supplies than it does chickens, which can be bred in many areas of the country that don’t require as much land and therefore are not in the drought zone. 

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Fast-food restaurants are also getting on board both to save money and to cater to current food trends.

Over the past year, Taco Bell has been experimenting with fried chicken for the first time. The return of chicken fries on Burger King’s menu has helped the company drive up its third-quarter sales. And Popeye’s is reinventing itself to win the fried chicken war, as Forbes reported.

It’s likely the golden age of poultry will continue in 2015.

The National Chicken Council estimates that the per capita consumption of poultry in 2015 will surpass that of red meat, which includes beef and pork, for the first time ever.

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