posted by admin on 29/05/06
By SCOTT KILMAN and STEVEN GRAY
May 24, 2006; Page B1
Are consumers getting plucked at the chicken counter?
A glut of chickens that has built partly because of foreign fears of avian flu is slashing the
prices that poultry processors get for some parts of disassembled birds to the lowest levels in three decades. But retail prices aren't falling at the same speed, according to government economists. A price break would be a big deal for consumers. Americans eat more chicken than any other meat -- nearly 86 pounds per capita last year -- and spend roughly $50 billion annually for it.
The price charged by processors for whole broilers is 19% lower than it was a year ago, with parts such as breasts and legs dropping 24% and 36%, respectively, in the same time period. Retail poultry prices will slip no more than 1% from last year, according to forecasts by economists at the Agriculture Department.
In many supermarkets, chicken still commands lofty prices. Safeway Inc. in its Dominick's stores in suburban Chicago has been charging $5.49 a pound for Perdue brand boneless, skinless breasts. Customers with a loyalty card have been paying $4.99 a pound. Safeway has cut the price on its house brand of boneless, skinless chicken breasts for one week to $1.99 a pound from $3.99 a pound. But a spokesman for the Pleasanton, Calif., company wouldn't comment on whether it has plans to lower retail prices of Perdue chicken products, for which Safeway pays a premium.
The National Chicken Council, the trade group representing processors such as Tyson
Foods Inc. and Pilgrim's Pride Corp., doesn't comment on retail prices. But livestock analysts think a corresponding drop in retail prices would increase consumer demand enough to help reduce the chicken glut. "I think the retailers aren't competing nearly as aggressively as they used to," says Dan Vaught, a livestock analyst at A.G. Edwards & Sons, St. Louis.