Anxious that Americans won’t eat as many chicken wings at Super Bowl parties next weekend as they chowed down on last year, the National Chicken Council is serving up a heaping helping of half truths about the supposed impact of U.S. ethanol on poultry prices and supplies. Surprisingly, they downplay the drought of 2012 and its disastrous impact on all crops and the feed market.
In a recent news release, the chicken-producers’ trade association crows that Americans will eat more than 1.23 billion wing portions at this year’s get-togethers but clucks about an anticipated decline in consumption of one percent — 12.3 million fewer wings — compared to 2012.
Big Oil and the Chicken Pluckers (otherwise known as the “Tar (Sands) and Feathers” Coalition) blame biofuels for almost every problem known to humanity, but this is the first time I’ve heard American ethanol called a Super Bowl party pooper.
It’s true that 2012 chicken production was slightly lower (0.7 percent) than in 2011. But what the NCC failed to mention in its outrageous press release is that 2011 was a record year for chicken meat production. In fact, 2012 chicken output will go down as the second-largest on record trailing only last year!
Simply put, it’s an outright fallacy that Americans are eating considerably less chicken today than in the past. The average American consumed 80.3 pounds of chicken in 2012, according to USDA. Ten years ago, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers crushed the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII, the average American consumed 80.7 pounds of chicken. Twenty years ago, when the Dallas Cowboys destroyed the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVII, average chicken consumption was 75.3 pounds per person — seven percent less than today.
The bottom line is, ethanol production has little impact on food prices and no discernible impact on chicken supplies. The chicken lobby knows this, and so do their Big Oil cohorts. But they’ll stop at nothing to tar and feather ethanol and the RFS.
Chicken producers also understand that ethanol production generates distillers grains and other feed products, which contribute to the poultry industry’s supply of animal feed. One-third of every bushel of grain that is processed into ethanol is enhanced and returned to the animal feed market in the form of distillers grains, corn gluten feed and corn gluten meal. These co-products are fed to poultry, beef cattle, dairy cows, hogs and fish here in the U.S. and around the world.
During the 2010/11 marketing year, the U.S. ethanol industry generated 39 million metric tons of high-quality feed — enough to produce one normal-sized chicken breast for every American to eat every day of the year.
As for food prices, including Super Bowl snacks, only 16 percent of the average household’s food bill pays for raw agricultural ingredients such as corn. Eighty-four percent of their food bill pays for energy, transportation, processing, packaging, marketing and other supply chain costs.