Impotent Chickens Sending Poultry Prices Up

Chickens walk in their enclosure on a farm in Maryland, in this file photo from October 19, 2005.A shortage of chickens used for breeding is constraining U.S. poultry production and raising prices at a time when beef and pork prices already are at record highs. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/Files (UNTIED STATES - Tags: ANIMALS FOOD)
A shortage of chickens used for breeding is constraining U.S. poultry production and raising prices at a time when beef and pork prices already are at record highs.
REUTERS

At a time when prices for other forms of meat are already high, consumers might have looked for refuge in poultry. Unfortunately, poultry prices are up too—and it’s partially because a major source of the nation’s chickens is having virility issues.

Reuters reports the breed of roosters affected accounts for about a quarter of slaughtered US chickens. Before you criticize the roosters themselves (and by the way, placing blame is rarely the best way to deal with anyone’s anxieties), it’s worth knowing that breeder Aviagen Group managed to genetically modify the birds into their infertility.

The modification made the roosters very sensitive to being overfed—giving them little appetite for much else. As an executive with major poultry supplier and Aviagen customer Sanderson Farms told Reuters:

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"We fed him too much. He got fat. When he got big, he did not breed as much as he was intended to," (Sanderson CFO Mike) Cockrell said about the breed of rooster. "The fertilization went way down, and our hatch has been way down."

Sanderson saw about a 2 percent increase in hatch failure rate, prompting Aviagen to look into the issue.

Whole chicken prices are up about 6.1 percent in US cities in the past year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Read the full Reuters report here.