ATLANTA - Industry executives touched on global competition, consumption challenges and avian influenza at the National Chicken Council's annual conference here.
Bill Lovette, senior group vice president of poultry and prepared foods, Tyson Foods, Springdale, Ark., challenged the industry to think about cost in a different way to maintain a competitive advantage in a global marketplace.
Lovette cited food safety, bio-security and consumer expectations as critically important. The transparency of the regulatory process is beneficial and the efficiency of the country's supply chain compared to others is also an advantage, he said.
The industry has done a good job protecting the safety of poultry in the U.S. and the country's safeguards against avian flu provide a competitive advantage, he said.
Lampkin Butts, president, Sanderson Farms, Laurel, Miss., noted the industry was dealt a blow last winter as bird flu swept across Asia and Europe. Chicken consumption declined in countries where bird flu cropped up, and that led to sharp reductions in American exports.
"Companies in the U.S. have been able to take this year to evaluate and better bio-security plans," he said.
Over the last 25 years, chicken consumption in the U.S. has doubled, yet companies will have to be innovative to keep consumption growing, said O.B. Goolsby, president and chief executive officer of Pilgrim's Pride, Pittsburg, Texas.
"Need and desire for chicken and the convenience of new outlets selling a wide array of new flavor profiles helped us tremendously," he said.
Surging in numbers, Asian and Hispanic shoppers present marketers with an opportunity, panelists said. To satisfy their preference for dark meat, and address an oversupply problem, companies should improve the product selection, they said.
"Dark meat has been an issue for a number of years," Butts said. "We're looking for ways to sell dark in value form and it's been a challenge."