We Pump Out 8-Pound Chickens. That Could Be an Issue

KFC and Chick-fil-A's need for 4-pound birds is rising
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 5, 2023 1:42 PM CDT
We Mostly Produce 8-Pound Chickens. That Could Be an Issue
   (Getty Images / Sergei Dolgov)

It's a potentially big problem involving a small thing: America needs more 4-pound chickens. That's the upshot of a Wall Street Journal piece that takes a look at the friction between the larger 8-pound birds chicken processors prefer and the smaller variety that fast-food chains like Chick-fil-A and KFC desire. Four-pounders have long been the size of choice for restaurants because they're said to be more flavorful and, importantly, they're the right fit: As the Los Angeles Times reported in 2020, their "quarter-pound breasts fit perfectly inside a bun," which eliminates the need to cut them to size and find some use for the scraps.

But as Americans' love of chicken sandwiches increases, upping demand for the birds, processors have moved in an opposite direction, per the Journal: The number of small chickens slaughtered weekly made up 30% of the market in 2005 but just 15% in 2023, per USDA data. The driver of that is money. The head of an agricultural consulting firm tells the Journal it costs about the same to raise 4- and 8-pound birds, but when chicken prices rise, the bigger birds mean bigger profit. Reps for KFC and Chick-fil-A sounded confident about their ability to get the chickens they need going forward, and some suppliers say they're starting to invest in new or renovated plants that can handle more small birds. But smaller purchasers of the smaller chickens express concern. (More chicken stories.)

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