Poultry Sector at a Glance
U.S. poultry products hold leading positions in both international and U.S. meat commodity markets, supported by competitive production structures, modern poultry genetics, abundant domestic feed resources, and strong consumer appeal. During 2013–22, broiler chickens, which provide virtually all U.S. chicken meat, averaged 67 percent of all poultry sector sales. Chicken eggs, overwhelmingly destined for human consumption, averaged 22 percent, and turkeys averaged 11 percent of poultry sales.
Total poultry sector sales in 2022 were $76.9 billion, an increase of 67 percent from 2021. Broiler sales increased 60 percent, turkey sales increased 21 percent, and egg sales increased 122 percent. Only broilers increased production from 2021. All three sectors were affected by increasing prices in 2022, with the egg and turkey sectors being particularly impacted by the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreak. Benchmark prices increased by 38.9 percent for broilers, 25.9 percent for turkeys, and 138.3 percent for eggs from 2021 to 2022.
Sales information for 2022 is pictured in the map below.
U.S. poultry production mostly expanded during the 2013-22 period, as producers sought to meet domestic and foreign consumer demand. Broiler production grew 22 percent, and egg production grew 10 percent. Turkey production in 2022 was 10 percent below that of 2013, after shrinking each year since 2017. However, each annual decline in turkey production was outweighed by increases in broiler production.
U.S. poultry production has a competitive advantage in the world due to abundant domestic feed resources, primarily soybean meal and corn. Feed is generally the most significant production cost across livestock, and poultry converts feed to human food products (meat and eggs) more efficiently than larger livestock. Modern poultry genetics drove a dramatic increase in poultry feed conversion over time, requiring less feed (and duration) to produce market-ready birds (and eggs) and resulting in highly competitive product prices. Commercially driven research in poultry genetics is concentrated at the firm and country levels, and U.S. firms have a leading role.
Commercial poultry production starts with primary breeder birds selected to lay fertile eggs for hatching on the basis of desirable genetic traits. These birds’ progeny become breeders that eventually produce birds used directly for meat or table egg production. The period during which breeders grow to reach reproductive maturity can be 4.5 to 6 months after hatching and is generally longer for turkeys.
Timeframes vary for harvesting meat from broilers or turkeys and table eggs from layer chickens. Market broiler chickens are generally slaughtered before 2 months of age, while turkeys often reach 4 months before slaughter. Table-egg-type chickens begin laying at about 4 to 4.5 months of age and start a cycle that can last 14–15 months, with additional production cycles optional after a molting period.
U.S. poultry firms vertically integrate multiple stages of production more than other livestock producers—with feed production, fertile egg and chick production, and slaughter often residing under the same firm. Production contracts are also common, where the services of growers that house and manage birds, for example, may be contracted by an integrated poultry firm in exchange for a fee per bird.
U.S. poultry meat consumption has trended up and displaced a substantial amount of red meat consumption in recent decades, in part because of favorable prices and health recommendations. The chart below shows these changing consumption trends by comparing one measure of poultry meat consumption (estimated retail disappearance) with the same measure for red meat consumption, including beef and pork. The chart also includes egg and egg product disappearance. USDA, Economic Research Service-published disappearance statistics are a proxy for consumption, measuring supplies available for marketing in a given period. Meat disappearance equals production less net exports and net changes in cold storage. Retail disappearance also subtracts an estimate of meat components that are not typically sold with meat at retail, such as certain bone portions and skin. Egg and egg product disappearance fell slightly in 2022 as the outbreak of HPAI limited availability.
Trade impacts the U.S. poultry sector’s profitability by altering domestic supplies and prices from what they would have been without trade. During 2013–22, approximately 17 percent of domestic broiler production was exported, making broilers the most export-oriented of the U.S. poultry commodities. Over the same period, 11 percent of U.S. turkey production and 4 percent of egg production were exported.
The majority of U.S. broiler exports are leg quarters and other products categorized as dark chicken meat, and Mexico is the most significant foreign market for broiler meat. Mexico is also the destination for most U.S. turkey exports, typically as cut-up parts shipped fresh or chilled for use for further processing. The largest markets for U.S. egg exports are Mexico and Canada, where shell eggs can more easily be transported; more distant markets tend to import egg products, including dry products.
The interactive table and chart below show summary statistics for the poultry sector. Use the “Select a sector” menu in the upper corner to toggle between the major sector components. Variables can be graphed and compared in the chart.