AgriFutures Chicken Meat Program RD&E Snapshot

  • 88 pages

  • Published: 17 Nov 2023

  • Author(s): AgriFutures Australia

  • ISBN: 978-1-76053-344-1

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As we head into a new research, development and extension (RD&E) period for the Australian chicken meat industry (2022–2027), it is timely to reflect on the noteworthy achievements of the previous period.

The key objectives of the AgriFutures Chicken Meat Program RD&E Plan 2019–2022 were to improve food safety of Australian chicken meat, develop and implement measures to improve industry impact on the environment, improve chicken meat production through the whole supply chain, and improve the ability to meet consumer needs.

The industry is a significant economic contributor. In 2022, the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics (ABARES) estimated the gross value of poultry farm production for 2021–2022 to be $3.149 billion. The ABARES forward estimate for poultry meat production in 2023–2024 is 1,356 kilotonnes, compared with 1,267 kilotonnes in 2019–2010.

Chicken production represents about 95% of poultry production, while chicken meat has an estimated retail value of $6.6 billion. Chicken meat exports account for less than 5% of total production and are dominated by low-value cuts, such as edible offal and chicken feet. The industry provides direct employment to more than 58,000 people (full-time equivalents), many in rural and regional communities.

Chicken is the most popular source of animal protein for Australian consumers, representing more than 46% of all meat consumed in Australia — 68% of Australians eat chicken meat as part of a meal at least twice a week because of its taste, versatility and affordability. There is also a strong industry connection with direct customers, including major retailers and food service outlets.

The Market insights for Australia’s chicken meat industry report (2021), produced by Professor Wendy Umberger and Lenka Malek from The Centre for Global Food and Resources at the University of Adelaide, suggested that while chicken meat demand is likely to remain relatively high, future demand will be affected by several factors. These include a growing number of consumers limiting or reducing their meat consumption, developing consumer interest in production-related credence attributes (e.g. free range, animal welfare, antibiotic use), increasing concerns about animal welfare and emerging concerns about the environmental impact of meat production.

These insights, combined with the outcomes of the industry’s inaugural Materiality assessment of the Australian chicken meat industry, by Point Advisory during 2022, have underpinned the development of the RD&E Plan for 2022–2027. The materiality assessment showed which topics (issues, risks and opportunities) are of greatest importance to the industry and its stakeholders, and can be used to inform sustainability efforts.

The most material topics were food safety and animal welfare, followed by food security, biosecurity, climate change, and health, safety and wellbeing. Other highly material topics included cost of living, price pressures and stability, and supply chain stability, alongside job creation. Environmental management and feedstock were particularly important topics. Ethical conduct and transparency, and transparency, labelling and marketing also scored highly.

The RD&E Plan 2019–2022 had a three-year duration, with a strong focus on extension and training, larger and higher-risk projects to address complex issues, and producing information to help industry manage risks. Those key objectives, while still relevant, have been modified for the 2022–2027 Plan. Key shifts in emphasis include a new objective focused specifically on developing people capability and a sustainable workforce, amplifying the prominence of chicken welfare RD&E, and acknowledging the R&D that will be required to support the Australian Chicken Meat Sustainability Framework, which will be developed during the life of the Plan.

— Katherine Balding, Chair, AgriFutures Chicken Meat Advisory Panel