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Prices drive poultry over $2 billion mark
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Poultry topped the $2 billion mark in 2004 as record prices combined with higher production for the state's No. 1 commodity.
Poultry set a new record for the estimated value of production, increasing by nearly 26 percent - more than $400 million - to $2.01 billion. Broilers saw a 30 percent increase and chickens a 27 percent increase, but eggs dropped 8 percent in estimated farm-gate value.
"Prices were up because of the increased domestic demand for poultry and improvement in the export market," said Tim Chamblee, poultry specialist with the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station.
Mississippi produced an estimated 800 million broilers, making it fourth in the nation in number of birds produced. Birds weighed an average of 5.5 pounds for a state total of 4.4 billion pounds produced.
Chamblee said the state avoided the devastation caused by avian influenza this year. When this disease hits a state, large numbers of birds are quarantined and destroyed, and that state loses its export market until the situation is cleared up.
"The biggest challenge we face in the industry is keeping our biosecurity at the level it needs to be to keep these diseases out," Chamblee said. "We're doing a very good job of it, but we don't need to let our guard down."
Eggs saw a dip in estimated value of production based mostly on price. Mississippi produced a projected 515 million eggs for a value of $156 million.
"Last year was a record year for egg prices," Chamblee said. "As hen numbers and egg production increased above 2003 levels, supply caught up with demand and prices dropped."
Mississippi has six broiler companies operating in the state and contracting with approximately 2,700 broiler farms.
Mike Cockrell, chief financial officer for Laurel-based Sanderson Farms, called 2004 a spike year with record prices for virtually every part of the chicken.
"Our company had a record year in both sales and earnings. We surpassed the $1 billion mark in sales for the first time in history," Cockrell said. "We were able to pay a special dividend to our stockholders in recognition of the year our company had."
Cockrell said boneless breast meat hit $2.57 a pound in the summer, and prices for other chicken parts also were very good through much of the year. Prices typically dip near the end of the year as Americans eat more of the other types of meat.
While 2004 was a record year, Cockrell said he expects 2005 to be more normal. Exports are expected to grow stronger, which should absorb some of the recent and projected increases in production. Prices for feed, the largest cost of production, are expected to stay low.
"We're fairly optimistic about our input prices. Both corn and soybean meal are trading at very attractive levels compared to where they had been," Cockrell said.
Contact: Dr. Tim Chamblee, (662) 325-3416