Saturday, December 29, 2012

Heritage turkeys gain in the market

Frank Reese of Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch in Kansas brought this news story to my attention today:

CHICAGO—New Research reveals its turkey, not chicken, that's taking the lead in poultry sales. Research from Mintel on the U.S. poultry market reveals that turkey, duck and other specialty birds grew 6.5 percent in one year, reaching $7.1 billion from year 2011 to 2012.

Growing from $6 billion in 2008, turkey increased most compared to other poultry products. Today, poultry in the U.S. is valued at $30 billion, with chicken accounting for 58 percent of the total poultry market, valued at $17.3 billion, sales of chicken parts grew 4.5 percent year-on-year and whole chickens increased 0.6 percent reaching $5.5 billion. 

"The growth of other poultry products over 2011 and 2012 is partly attributed to the increasing popularity of Heritage turkeys, which are bigger, take longer to reach maturity and sell for more than standard turkeys," says John N Frank, category manager for Mintel Food and Drink. 

The study showed poultry may be pulling consumers from the red-meat market, with 38 percent of U.S. consumers saying they have increased their consumption of poultry in the last year. Rates have also increased among young adults, reaching 43 percent, compared to the 36 percent of senior consumers. 

Ethnic consumers are a driving force behind the poultry market, with 73 percent of Asians or Pacific Islander consumers and 72 percent of Hispanic and African-American consumers cooking chicken at home, as apposed to the 62 percent of White consumers.

Boy, I'll say. Here's some true good economic news that deserves more attention. Heritage turkey producers never have enough turkeys to meet the demand. Those numbers will rise every year as more farmers get involved.

I reserved a Bourbon Red turkey from a local producer, Erin Krier of Babe's Birds in Nipomo, California for our Christmas feast. I was able to share it with family members who are unfamiliar with heritage birds. They were all impressed with how delicious it was. Moist, flavorful white meat and dark, dark meat. Yum. I'm still making soup from the carcass. The Bourbon Reds in this photo are at Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch.

I followed Steve Pope's suggestions for adding water to the roasting pan and covering the pan, to provide the moist slow heat that is necessary to cook heritage birds that are raised ranging on pasture.

Frank makes the point that heritage turkeys are not, as quoted in the article, bigger than broad-breasted white commercial ones. The Bourbon Red I got weighed 15 pounds dressed out, and it was one of the largest in the group. At $6 a pound, it was a bargain. We fed nine people at the feast with enough leftovers for a couple of turkey salad sandwiches, a turkey casserole and a gallon or two of soup.

I suspect that the reporter misunderstood the statement from the company spokesman, or he may have misunderstood himself. Educating the public about heritage breeds, what they are and why they are important, is part of the mission we are on.

Another interesting aspect of this brief story is that ethnic consumers are driving the market for poultry. Asian consumers are often eager to purchase live birds, and are usually an important part of local poultry markets. Black chickens are especially desirable.

Connecting with the new markets for heritage poultry is a route to success. Consumers are leaving commercial poultry behind.

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