The Russia-Ukraine war, which began in February 2022, has had a significant impact on the production of grains such as corn and wheat. The two grains are the main components of chicken feed, and the besieged Ukraine is a major producer of both. With higher grain prices, poultry farmers have had no choice but to pass on the costs of chicken feed to consumers.
Co-Op CEO Steve Murrells echoed this sentiment, warning that chicken could become as expensive as beef. "Chicken, which was incredibly cheap and great value for money, is rising quicker than any other protein. The chicken industry has particular challenges because of the feed costs," he told the Daily Mirror.
An outbreak of avian influenza that threatened to decimate poultry populations prompted farms to kill off their chickens. According to Strange Sounds, poultry farms in almost 30 states – including Iowa, Maine and Utah – were forced to cull their chickens as a result of the largest such outbreak in seven years.
Iowa-based Rembrandt Enterprises was among the companies forced to kill their chickens to curb the spread of bird flu. Employees at the company's farm in Rembrandt, Iowa culled the chickens and buried them in huge pits. However, about 250 staff members who did the arduous task of hauling and burying the dead poultry were laid off when the job was finished. (Related: Iowa factory culls over 5 million chickens after ONE bird flu case, lays off 250 workers after burying dead birds.)
Making matters worse is an impending ban on poultry exports by the Malaysian government. Under the ban set to take effect on June 1, Kuala Lumpur would ban the export of 3.6 million chickens a month. The country defended its decision to ban chicken exports as necessary to secure local food supplies and curb rising food prices.
"The government's priority is our own people, said Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob in a statement. He added that authorities in the country will investigate allegations of cartel pricing, promising "stern action" against those found sabotaging the food supply. Malaysia has not set a date as to when the export ban will be lifted, only saying that it will remain in place "until domestic prices and production stabilize."
The price hikes of chicken have caused repercussions throughout the global food industry.
British retailer Marks & Spencer are selling free-range chicken breasts and beef rump steak – both organic – at £24.15 ($30.47) a kilogram. Supermarket chain Tesco, meanwhile, sells its corn-fed free-range chickens under the Finest brand at £16.50 ($20.82) a kilogram.
While retailers in the United Kingdom passed on higher prices to consumers, those in Malaysia and Singapore took the blow. Malaysian retailers rationed their chicken sales, while some in Singapore revealed plans to close temporarily.
Some Singaporean wet market stallholders shared to Channel News Asia (CNA) their plans to temporarily close. They added that Malaysia's export ban could result in a further increase in chicken prices – thus driving customers away. The city-state located in Southeast Asia imports about 34 percent of chicken from Malaysia.
A May 26 follow-up by CNA revealed that chicken sellers were facing a 20 to 70 percent shortage. Some customers have been buying more to stock up, added the news outlet.
Consumer Association of Singapore President Melvin Yong said on May 24: "The sudden announcement [of the poultry export ban] by Malaysia is likely going to have an adverse impact on the prices of chicken and related products in Singapore."
Watch Gabor "Gabe" Zolna warning about a surge in prices for chicken and other meats below.
This video is from the zolnareport.com channel on Brighteon.com.