By Susan Collins Smith

MSU Extension Service

RAYMOND, Mississippi – Strong consumer demand for chicken is part of the equation that added to an almost 40% increase in production value for the Mississippi poultry industry in 2021.

The product retained the first place among all agricultural products in the state, with a total estimated value of $ 2.65 billion. 2021 marks the 27th consecutive year that poultry has exceeded the value of Mississippi’s production list. The final figures will be released by the US Department of Agriculture in April.

Higher prices also influenced the value of this year’s production.

“Demand at grocery stores and restaurants has been strong,” said Josh Maples, agricultural economist at Mississippi State University Extension Service. “It’s also important to remember that the prices for broiler chicken in 2020 were very low. So, the sharp increase in price and production value that we saw in 2021 is due to higher demand for chicken and higher prices. But he is also motivated by the comparison with low values ​​in 2020. “

The poultry industry is divided into three segments: broilers, chickens and eggs. Broilers are worth around $ 2.42 billion, an increase of 43% from 2019. The estimated value of chickens that produce table eggs is $ 2.7 million, an increase of 33% compared to last year. Eggs are valued at $ 235 million, a 5% increase from 2019.

In 2020, the value of eggs rose sharply as prices rose due to production issues and supply chain issues caused by the impacts of COVID-19. Even higher annual prices have contributed to the rise in the value of eggs for 2021.

“Egg production levels so far in 2021 have actually been slightly lower than 2020 levels, but higher prices have made up for this drop in production,” Maples said.

Among the lingering challenges with COVID-19 is the shortage of some processing plant and supply chain workers, said Tom Tabler, an extension poultry specialist.

“Keeping workers in factories is a major challenge because of the way government assistance to many people is structured,” he said. “In addition, there is a shortage of truck drivers nationwide, and the poultry industry needs feed truck drivers, truck drivers and drivers to transport the finished product from factories. transformation to a destination point. “

The cost of doing business is also increasing. Poultry farmers always keep an eye on grain prices as animal feed accounts for 70% of production costs.

“Cereal prices have been much higher this year due to pressure from export markets,” Tabler said. “The prices we are seeing in the futures markets are the highest we have seen in several years, and they are certainly enough to keep the industry going. “

In recent years, the poultry industry has suffered property losses from tornadoes, hurricanes and other natural disasters, which have impacted insurance rates and coverage.

“Many insurance companies have stopped insuring poultry farms or have significantly increased their rates due to losses from natural disasters,” Tabler said. “On top of that, rising prices for steel and lumber have increased the costs of building new barns to a point where it’s difficult to make them profitable.”

Although growers faced multiple issues in 2021, the disease was not one of them. Strict and consistent biosecurity protocols have protected the industry from bird flu outbreaks, while many other countries have grappled with the virus.

Tabler said the industry faces a number of challenges, but remains optimistic about 2022.

“I hope that the supply chain problems continue to be resolved and that the prices of steel and timber become a little more reasonable,” he said. “I guess the processing plant issues and the truck driver shortage will be with us for some time to come.

“However, demand for chicken is strong both domestically and in the export market. Much of the world is still grappling with the effects of African swine fever, and chicken is a logical choice to fill the void left by a weaker pork supply.