What's your favourite meat? If the answer is chicken, you're far from alone.
Newly released sales figures show that British consumers buy more chicken and poultry than any other meat. By weight, poultry makes up around half of all meat purchased in the UK - as much as beef, lamb and pork combined. Of this, chicken dominates, accounting for 93% of all poultry meat bought. In comparison, turkey and duck make up just 4% and 3% of the national flock with Goose production is small and specialised.
What's more, demand for chicken and other poultry is growing. This is down to the healthiness of the meat, but also its low cost. Since 2008, with an increase of just 23%, poultry prices have risen much more slowly than beef (51%) and lamb (54%) and more slowly than food prices in general (29%). As a result, in 2010 the average British household spent £2 per week on fresh, chilled or frozen poultry.
Despite increasing demand though, there's little recognition of poultry's increasing popularity and how this growth supports the British economy. The industry thought it was about time this changed, so we commissioned Oxford Economics to investigate the impact of poultry on our plates and the economy. They've crunched through the numbers and produced 'Economic Impact Assessment: the British Poultry Industry 2013'. They've found the industry makes a £3.3 billion gross value added contribution to UK GDP, and supports £1 billion in total tax payable to the Exchequer - that's the equivalent of paying the salaries of over 45,000 new classroom teachers in England and Wales.
We're now getting the message out to the public to build recognition of the importance of the industry and the food we eat. Not only does poultry make a significant financial contribution to the UK economy, it also supports over 73,000 jobs across the UK.
To feed millions of families across the country on a daily basis, the industry requires a diverse workforce with a range of different skills. That's why we work hard to attract, recruit, train, develop and retain quality people, and run a number of successful training and development programmes at all levels, including apprenticeship schemes, annual scholarships, and minimum standards of qualifications. We're also raising awareness of the rewarding careers available by engaging with schools and providing a range of school packs for children in all key stages.
So there's much more behind the chicken on your plate than you might have realised. The industry will continue to work hard to supply healthy, high quality food at affordable prices. With any luck, we'll be able to report back in a year's time to show an increase in contribution to the Exchequer, but the next time you eat chicken, just remember that you're far from alone and are playing a small part in helping to boost the economy.
Andrew Large, Chief Executive of the British Poultry Council