Chicken Is On The Menu

The crispy chicken sandwich wars just got reheated.

A lil mom & pop shop entered the arena last week and has Chick-Fil-A and Popeye’s doing a double-take. You might’ve heard of ’em…


With Mickey D’s entering the game, all eyes have surprisingly shifted to the fast-food world’s suppliers – U.S. poultry producers.

Who’s hot: Tyson. Rumored to be McDonald’s main supplier squeeze, a chicken sandwich frenzy is swell news for the integrator. With 20% of their production focusing on small bird processing – the variety used for chicken sandwiches – they are primed to take advantage of chicken sandwich war 2.0.

Another winner: Pilgrim’s Pride. Chick-fil-A’s biggest supplier is bound to get a boost too.

With ⅓ of their production geared towards small birds and another facility converting to meet more demand, they see dollar signs when #ChickenWars lights up Twitter feeds.

The McDonald’s effect: Regardless of supplier relationships, the Golden Arches is notorious for influencing commodity prices with its 30% market share of the fast-food category. Analysts note chicken breast prices jumped 45% from January to February.

What’s ahead: Between heated fast-food ad campaigns and returning foodservice traffic, expect this battle to benefit the poultry industry for the remainder of 2021.

Bird Flu Bloodbath

Migratory bird patterns have accelerated the bird flu spread across Europe and Asia, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon.

New strains in wild birds upped the deadliness in recent weeks. Here’s a quick roundup of where things stand:

Europe: Battling the spread since November, Germany ordered another 37K chickens to be culled while France’s total slaughtered bird numbers will reach 600K by month’s end.

Middle East: The virus ventured south to Iraq, wiping out 92% of a 69K-bird flock.

South Asia:
 The world’s #6 poultry producer, India, is in the cross-hairs. A $450 million (USD) economic hit is estimated, and chicken prices fell almost a third as consumers become leery of the protein.

East Asia: Possibly facing the worst conditions, Japan and South Korea have collectively culled 20 million chickens since last fall. Precautions for domestic producers are on overdrive to stop the spread.

Who Run the (Egg) World? Girls.

In the world of eggs, females are at the top of the pecking order. You know, since males can’t lay eggs and all. And an innovative idea from Soos Technology could be a game changer for this global poultry predicament.

The big idea: Soos is using sound.

The backstory: Soos CEO Yael Alter and Nashat Haj Mohamad began using sound vibration in incubators and when their first test yielded a higher number of females, they knew they were on to something.

$weet tune: By taking the male egg embryos and converting them to female, the technology could eliminate the need to cull male chicks – helping the industry be more humane, while also cracking down on lost revenue.

“It is well known that sound affects cells, as this technology is also used in medicine and even in cancer treatment,” noted Alter in a Poultry World interview. “This is precisely what we are doing: we are affecting the cells and thereby defining the sex of the embryos.”

What’s next: In November, Soos won the $1 million grand prize from a New York State food and agriculture competition. And while the coronavirus has slowed their progress, Soos hopes to run more pilots in Europe and the U.S. soon.

Broken Record Alert: Poultry Price Fixing

Target and Chick-fil-A are the two newest faces to join the poultry price fixing saga in the past week.

Tyson, Pilgrim’s Pride, Perdue Farms, and over a dozen other poultry companies were named in the most recent filings. The alleged issues revolve around the companies conspiring by sharing confidential information around prices, demand, sales volume, and bids.

To put it lightly, Target is ticked:

“We filed a lawsuit against these suppliers to recoup the unfair costs that Target was charged for nearly a decade and protect guests and retailers against this harmful behavior in the future,” noted a Target spokeswoman.

And if bid-rigging cases sound familiar, it’s because they are. Meat producers, packers, and processors have been routinely accused by their customers for antitrust issues since 2008.

  • In the pork industry, a 2018 lawsuit wrapped Hormel, Tyson, JBS, and Smithfield into a similar price fixing ring. The issue at stake: their collective claim of 70% of the market led to too much buddy-buddy time.
  • Cargill, Tyson, National Beef Packing, and JBS were sued for price fixing to boost their behemoth beef margins even as cattle prices plunged in 2015 while grocery store beef prices notched record levels.

And then there’s Agri Stats. The friend your parents always side-eyed in your social circle…

Named a co-defendant in a majority of the cases, Agri Stats is a price forecasting and benchmarking service for meat companies. The firm has been called out as the ringleader of sorts as litigators believe it facilitates antitrust activity, spreading information around prices, slaughter rates, and volumes.

 Price fixing lawsuits typically include long litigation timetables with eventual settlements. We’ll see when and how these reach an end.