Chicken consumption continues to soar in U.S.

Nine in 10 consumers say they purchase chicken regularly.

U.S. chicken consumption remains high, with 2016 levels surpassing those from the previous two years, according to new research.

In the two weeks leading up to the survey, 87% of consumers ate a chicken meal or snack purchased from a supermarket, and 72% ate a chicken meal or snack from a food service establishment. While supermarket numbers increased 2.4% and are now at parity with those seen in 2015, food service establishment consumption showed a noteworthy 7.5% increase from 2015.

The survey was commissioned by the National Chicken Council (NCC) and conducted online by ORC International June 6-9, 2016, among 1,017 adults.

The result showed consumers' taste for chicken shows no signs of waning. In the next 12 months, 21% of consumers anticipated eating more chicken from the supermarket, and 14% anticipated eating more from a foodservice establishment.  In fact, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates, Americans will eat 92 lb. of chicken per person this year, a record amount.

"People are buying more chicken than last year and plan to buy more next year," said Tom Super, senior vice president of communications at NCC. "Chicken tops the list of protein being consumed most often per week, and while retail sales continue to be strong, the survey shows that more people are eating chicken away from home, which is good news for chicken producers, foodservice establishments and the overall economy."

Consumers with the highest consumption levels tended to skew younger, more affluent and ethnically diverse with larger households. Among gender, total chicken consumption was split right down the middle: 50% female/50% male.

As part of the survey, consumers were asked to rank various factors on satisfaction and in order of importance.  Regardless of purchase channel, freshness, taste and price rose to the top for both measures. Across the board, consumers were satisfied with freshness and taste. However, satisfaction with price differed by channel with foodservice establishments experiencing moderate satisfaction levels, while satisfaction with price at supermarkets is somewhat lower.

When it comes to sources of information, conventional sources such as the government, grocery stores, farmer/growers, butchers and brands were preferred. The appeal of sources such as blogs and celebrities were more limited. 

Trust was also a point of differentiation. Supermarkets garnered reasonable levels of trust and, along with brands, comprised the second tier of desired sources of information behind the government.

Consumers were asked if various claims would increase, decrease or have no impact on their likelihood to purchase their favorite chicken products. Overall, when asked to choose among various claims, consumers were most interested in knowing that no antibiotics were used in production of their food. As seen in last year's survey results, also of interest was understanding where chicken comes from – products labeled as locally raised or indicating country of origin on the label were the claims most likely to pique interest.

When prompted, 71% of consumers were extremely or very concerned about food safety and 57% about hormone and steroid use, even though they are banned by federal law. Only 19% of respondents were extremely or very concerned about the time it takes to raise a chicken.

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