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Poultry industry holds top spot in Mississippi
By Bethany Waldrop Keiper
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Increases in exports, acceptance and profitability enabled the poultry and egg industry to hold the top spot in Mississippi's 2001 agricultural commodities.
For 2001, the estimated value of farm production for poultry and eggs was $1.54 billion, a 12-percent increase from 2000's total. The industry's value surpassed forestry's $1.12 billion and cotton's $527 million.
The rise in value is largely based on the increase in the value of live chickens, said Wallace Morgan, head of the poultry science department at Mississippi State University.
"The industry has seen some expansion, but not really in the amount produced," Morgan said. "This is a slow growth year both in Mississippi and nationally. In the past eight to 10 years, broiler production had grown more rapidly in Mississippi than it had nationally. That growth has leveled off."
Nationally, poultry tonnage exports have seen major growth.
"The export tonnage increase was more than the production growth increase, meaning fewer pounds available for the domestic market," Morgan said. "This marks the first time this has ever happened. The rise in exports is expected to continue in 2002."
Much of this chicken is shipped out of Mississippi ports, making the poultry industry an important one for the Gulf Coast region. For many years, the poultry industry has maintained a positive impact throughout the state in the number of jobs created -- from the production phase to processing to shipping.
Even though state industry growth numbers have leveled off, figures from National Agricultural Statistics Service indicate estimated production numbers are well past the billion pound mark.
"In Mississippi, an estimated 735 million broilers will be produced in 2001, having a cumulative New York-dressed weight of 3.65 billion pounds," said Tom Smith, MSU Extension poultry specialist. "Nationally, the broiler industry increased production 1.8 percent during 2001. An estimated 8.3 billion broilers with a New York-dressed weight of almost 42 billion pounds will be produced."
The average live weight of these broilers is more than 5.5 pounds and the ready-to-cook carcasses average more than 4 pounds per bird, Smith said.
In addition to broilers, the poultry industry's estimated value of farm production includes eggs and chickens.
During 2001, the number of table eggs produced in the United States increased about 1.5 percent, but the number of eggs produced in Mississippi declined 6.5 percent. The state value for eggs for 2001 was about $145 million.
"This drop is not uncommon. The state is not a major egg producer per se, even though the largest egg producing and processing company in the nation is headquartered in Mississippi," Morgan explained. "There has been decreased value for the egg, but a bright spot for the industry is that per capita consumption is back on the increase. This should make prices improve in the future."
Smith said the 490 million eggs produced in Mississippi in 2001 rank the state as the 16th largest table-egg-producing state.
The value of the state's chickens is about $4.5 million, up 40 percent from 2000's figures. Ninety percent of the chicken consumed in the United States is classified as broilers. The chicken category comprises former laying and breeding hens processed for inclusion in other food products. There are two of these processing plants in Mississippi.
"Again in 2001, Mississippi ranks as the fourth largest broiler-producing state in the United States," Smith said. "About 9 percent of all commercial broilers grown in the United States are produced in our state."
Georgia, Arkansas and Alabama outrank Mississippi in broiler production, with Georgia and Arkansas competing for top billing.
A combination of factors is giving Mississippi's poultry industry a positive outlook for 2002.
"The industry is expanding. After a leveling off in growth, we are once again in a growth mode. The profit picture is looking fairly good after some difficult years," Morgan said. "Figures for farm value show that this is the seventh year in a row that poultry has been No. 1 in the state."
For 2002, exports are expected to continue to increase. The United States is the world's largest producer of poultry meat.