Gateway to poultry production and products

Markets and trade

Poultry production ranges from small family systems, supporting livelihoods and supplying local or niche markets, to large-scale industrialized enterprises. The latter generally feed into integrated value chains, while the former, often characterized by low output, sell their produce through informal trading networks.

Poultry market prices can vary significantly, influenced by seasonal patterns (e.g. higher prices during festivities), production costs and competition from other products. Production costs are very volatile and can vary significantly from one region to another. They are largely based on the characteristics of the final product (e.g. high-quality meat takes longer to produce, which means higher costs) as well as on feed prices (mainly grain), climatic conditions and the genetic lines used. Poultry tends to be cheaper than other meats because they are efficient feed converters.

In most countries, poultry production is mainly for domestic consumption, but international trade is increasing. Most of the poultry meat available on the global market comes from large-scale, specialized commercial producers. The main importers of poultry meat are developing countries, where cheap, low-quality cuts such as wings, lower legs, necks and giblets sold by the piece make chicken meat more accessible to the average consumer. In contrast, consumers in developed countries  tend to buy chicken breasts and thigh meat and, to a lesser extent, drumsticks.  

Poultry meat products are usually exported frozen. International trade in eggs is relatively small compared to poultry meat, mainly because it is impossible to freeze them for transport over long distances. The three categories of egg exports are: (i) in-shell table eggs; (ii) in-shell eggs for hatching; and (iii) egg products (in liquid, frozen or dried form).

The evolution and dynamics of world poultry markets are mostly driven by animal disease outbreaks and trade policies. In recent decades, avian influenza and Newcastle disease have profoundly affected poultry meat trade, as has the implementation of trade agreements. Sanitary requirements ultimately determine international poultry trade. 

Did you know?

  • Between 1980 and 2017, the volume of total poultry meat exports increased by a factor of more than 12. Exports of eggs tripled.
  • The proportion of total poultry meat production traded on the international market doubled between 1993 and 2013.
  • Meat from indigenous breeds sells at a premium, often 50-100 percent more than broiler meat for whole birds.
  • In Africa, local chicken meat is often the main poultry product sold in markets. But in Asia and South America, eggs are generally the best-selling items.
  • Brazil is the major poultry meat exporter, followed by the United States and the Netherlands. The largest importers are China, Japan, Mexico and the United Kingdom.
  • Only around 3 percent of the global egg production is exported and imported.
  • Least developed countries are increasingly dependent on imports of poultry meat. Their level of imports increased from 3 percent in 1961 to around 30 percent in 2013.