| Published: March 27, 2024

Ag Insights: Poultry


by Deanna Husfelt, on behalf of the Poultry Workgroup

A Review of 2023 

Poultry is a significant part of agriculture across Horizon Farm Credit’s territory, from the Delmarva peninsula to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, to central and eastern Pennsylvania. The industry experienced another strong year in 2023. Placement of flocks were on relatively normal schedules, and there were no major disruptions in the industry reported, with the exception of a plant expansion in Virginia.  

Growers continued to feel the impacts of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) outbreaks in 2023. There was some flock depopulation across the Horizon Farm Credit territory in the early and later part of the year. However, on a positive note, the number of outbreaks throughout the territory was down from 46 confirmed cases in 2022 to 33 confirmed cases in 2023, as reported by USDA APHIS 

As felt across many industries, the poultry industry was impacted by rising inflation and continued interest rate hikes. These factors negatively impacted input costs, which has been a growing concern for the poultry industry in recent years. For example, poultry growers within the Delmarva region in 2022 reflected an average expense ratio at 41%, an approximate 25% increase from 2020. Couple rising rates with increased cost of production and producers feel the pinch of less money for discretionary spending and expansion.  

USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) reported that broiler production increased by 0.4% from 2022, although broiler exports were down, as key export players had less demand from the U.S. Broiler prices were lower than 2022 but remained above the four-year average from 2018-2022 as shown in the graph. 

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Egg exports increased from the previous year and egg prices were down, even with the threat of HPAI outbreaks threatening production levels. Turkey production was up 7% from previous year, as well as turkey exports, however turkey wholesale prices realized a decline in price. (Source: Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook: December 2023 ( 


Key Factors Influencing the Industry 

To keep up with demand and replace aging houses, integrators are looking to increase square footage under contract. Given the high cost of construction, many integrators have implemented additional new house bonus programs paid out over five years, in addition to the typical new house bonus offered at time of flock placement. Expansions continue to be hampered by high interest rates in addition to increased material costs.   

Input costs remain high for poultry growers, and several integrators implemented a base pay increase in 2023, recognizing these challenges. As inflation cools, cost increases should level out, and with the increase in base pay, profit margins should remain stable or improve slightly. Some growers have turned to alternative energy sources as a way to reduce costs. Growers who installed solar panels on farms in order to help curtail increased utility costs will reap the tax benefits of solar energy. However, until loans associated with the installation of the panels are paid in full, growers will not experience the full benefit of this investment.  

HPAI continues to remain a major concern for the industry throughout the nation, with outbreaks impacting farms across Horizon Farm Credit’s territory. Some integrators have been expanding outside their historic geographic footprint for grower locations to mitigate the risk associated with outbreaks. Also, due to HPAI, with flock depopulation in layer operations, egg production has felt the greatest impact. Although egg production has remained high, as hens age, egg production is expected to decrease, which will influence table egg production moving through 2024.  

The export market continues to play a vital role in the poultry industry. While exports to some countries have increased, lower exports to other major players such as China, Taiwan, and Cuba overshadowed the increases experienced. Export demand from other countries is expected to remain low for 2024, and USDA ERS has projected 2024 exports to be 50 million pounds less than 2023. (Source: Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook: February 2024 ( 

Consumer habits continue to spark demand for animal protein, particularly chicken, but given the current economic conditions, growth of this sector is expected to be limited. In addition, inflation has affected the discretionary spending consumers have available, and they are trending towards purchasing lower priced meat cuts with borrowers opting for deboned thigh meat, tenders, and wings, over breast, as well cooking at home as opposed to eating out.  

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Perspectives and Projections for the Year Ahead 

Demand for increased square footage, coupled with rates starting to slowly decrease and leveling of material cost, may result in new construction of poultry houses across the Horizon Farm Credit territory. Recent projects show the cost of new house builds at $17.00 - $18.50 per square foot, which is approximately double the cost of construction from nine years prior.  

HPAI will remain a threat to the industry, but the industry has become better prepared to prevent and handle outbreaks. Animal welfare and environmental issues continue to be a player in the industry as integrators look for ways to satisfy consumer and regulatory demands.  

Nationally, exports have a major role in the industry with the USDA ERS outlook projecting broiler exports to be below 2023 levels, while turkey exports may increase slightly. While overall broiler production is expected to reflect a decline, average broiler weights are expected to continue an upward trend. Table egg production is projected to be down for 2024, a result of the HPAI outbreaks resulting in the loss of hens, but egg production may see an increase as production per bird has seen an increase. Egg prices are expected to be down as egg supply remained above prior year. (Source: Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook: February 2024 ( 

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A new player in the industry is the Transparency in Poultry Grower Contracting and Tournaments final rule published and effective February 2024. The final rule requires greater transparency within poultry grower contracts, with the overall intent of the changes to provide transparency between the integrators and growers. Executed contracts between integrators and contract growers should specify the minimum number of birds to be placed annually, and the minimum stocking density to be placed for each flock under the agreement. Given these factors, growers should be able to better determine their financial outcomes from the contracted flocks, which leads to better and more informed financial decisions being made.  

While all industries may see challenges for the new year with the pending Farm Bill, export and weather challenges, and high interest rates and input costs, 2024 looks to be another strong year for the many areas of the poultry industry across Horizon Farm Credit’s territory.  

Interested in reading our other 2024 Ag Insights? Check out our other articles on:  


The information in this article is a summary of select economic conditions and agricultural industries prepared by Horizon Farm Credit staff. This material is for informational purposes only and cannot be relied on to replace your own judgment or that of the professionals you work with in assessing the accuracy or relevance of the information to your own operations. The information provided in this report is not intended to be investment, tax or legal advice and should not be relied upon by recipients for such purposes. As with any economic analysis, the information is based upon assumptions, personal views and experiences of those who provided the source material as well as those who prepared this summary. These assumptions, conclusions and opinions may prove to be incomplete or incorrect. Economic conditions may also change at any time based on unforeseeable events. Horizon Farm Credit assumes no liability for the accuracy or completeness of the summary or of any of the source material upon which it is based. No commitment to lend, or provide any financial service, express or implied, is made by posting this information. In no event will Horizon Farm Credit be liable for any decision made or actions taken by any person or persons relying on the information contained in this report. 

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