By Nathan Gregory
MSU Extension Service
Poultry was already Mississippi’s top agricultural commodity before its overall value increased even more in 2022.
The estimated value of production for the state’s poultry in 2022 was $3.8 billion. This 48% increase over 2021’s record production value of $2.6 billion will rewrite the record books if these totals hold when the final numbers are released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture next April.
Josh Maples, agricultural economist for the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said stronger prices are the driver for the higher value of production.
“Broiler production is estimated to be down slightly from 2021, but broiler prices are up nearly 40%,” he said. “So even though we will likely produce less when the final 2022 numbers are tallied, the stronger prices still lead to a big surge in total value of production. Egg prices have been exceptionally strong this year – more than double the average price seen in 2021.”
Broilers make up nearly $3.3 billion of the total, while eggs make up the remaining approximated $572 million.
Higher market prices helped producers cover high prices for feed and other inputs.
“The price for corn and soy has been high this year, which was less of a factor in the first three quarters, but the feed costs have not come down as prices for chicken have fallen,” said Mark Leggett, president of the Mississippi Poultry Association. “The levels on the wholesale market late in the year are well below costs. The markets peaked out in the spring and have been coming down since. Consumers are very stretched, and it is having an impact at restaurants as has inflation across the board.”
Maples said consumer demand for chicken has been strong in 2022 overall.
“The latest consumer price index data show retail chicken prices in October were up 16% above a year ago,” Maples said. “For comparison, beef prices were 6% lower and pork prices were 5% lower. All meat prices have been high the past few years, but chicken has seen the biggest increase lately.”
While the data tell most of the story for the first 10 months of 2022, Leggett said the trend reversed after that point. One factor was Mississippi becoming the 45th state to be hit with an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza, or HPAI. A breeder farm in Lawrence County was confirmed to be positive on Nov. 4. This was the first commercial farm in Mississippi to be hit with the virus, which has been circulating nationally since February. No farms in the state have tested positive since then.
“Growers and companies have been practicing stringent biosecurity measures, which have helped keep the virus from getting into more farms,” Leggett said. “One of the concerns is the virus is becoming more prevalent in wild birds, including buzzards, which are dying from the virus for the first time. Migratory birds have always been carriers of HPAI.”
One of the impacts of a positive HPAI case is the reduction in exports, especially chicken paws to China.
“The U.S. Poultry and Egg Export Council recently estimated that a HPAI-related ban by China on Mississippi poultry products could cost $7 million per month in lost sales,” Leggett said.
Maples said he does not expect 2022’s numbers to hold next year, as inflation and corn and soy prices continue to concern industry professionals.
“The current USDA forecast is for broiler prices to drop about 7% in 2023, which would likely lead to a lower value of production,” he said. “Egg prices are expected to decline back to more normal levels from the prices seen in 2022. All of this is wrapped up in the broader inflationary environment that is affecting the price of nearly everything. There are some signals that inflation is slowing.”
2022 marks the 28th straight year poultry has topped the list of agricultural commodities in Mississippi.
By Nathan Gregory