The cost of chicken is spiralling to the extent that it could soon become more expensive than beef, retail experts have warned.
The rocketing cost of chicken feed means that what used to be considered one of the most affordable meats is now rising in price faster than any other protein.
This is exacerbated by the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine. Chicken feed is mostly made from soya, sunflower meal and wheat, with Russia and Ukraine both being big exporters of sunflower oil (of which sunflower meal is a byproduct) and wheat.
Steve Murrells, chief executive of Co-op group and a former senior manager at Tesco and Sainsbury’s, warned that the days of cheap as chips chicken breasts are coming to an end.
He told The Retail & eCommerce directors’ forum, as reported by the Sunday Times: “Chicken could become as expensive as beef. The chicken industry has particular challenges because of the feed costs.
“The majority of cattle raised in this country are fed grass and it is not required to have high-dense feed.
“Chicken, which was incredibly cheap and great value for money, is rising quicker than any other protein.”
The average cost of chicken increased by 31p per kg from March last year, or about 12 percent, according to data from the Office for National Statistics. This is roughly the same as the increase in the cost of beef, but that could all be set to change soon.
According to the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), the cost of rearing a chicken has increased by 50 percent over the same period.
Murrells continued: “You could see a shift into pasture [animals], you could see a shift into more plant-based food.
“Customers will have to be savvy about what they can afford.”
Chicken is the UK’s most popular meat, the Guardian reports, and rising costs coupled with soaring energy bills could hit low income families hard.
While whole chickens are still available for £3 in most major supermarkets, some of the most popular high street chains are already starting to hike their prices.
Nando’s has increased prices on some of its dishes by as much as eight percent over recent months, the Mirror reports, with the cost of half a chicken and two sides rising by 70p.
A spokesperson for the chain put the increased cost down to ‘the continued rise in the cost of ingredients and the difficult trading environment caused by Covid’.
Dr Benjamin Coles, an economic geographer at the University of Leicester, also told the Times: “Will chickens become more expensive than beef? I don’t think that’s a bad speculation.
“We import a lot of beef so there is the cost of transportation. But I can say that the supply chain for a chicken is extraordinarily big and complicated, and it is dependent on a lot – chicken feed including soybeans, which are imported, energy as well as transport costs.”
So enjoy your cheap chicken while it lasts, folks.