Research Highlights

Research Highlights
U.S. Soybeans, Poultry Forge Partnership Over Poultry Exports

Photo: United Soybean Board

By Sarah Hill

U.S. poultry and other types of products are flying off store shelves in the Philippines, one of the fastest-growing markets around the globe. As demand for U.S. poultry—one of the major consumers of U.S. soybeans—continues to grow, the need for soybeans to feed those birds will also expand.

“The Philippines is very friendly to the U.S.,” says Greg Tyler, President and CEO, USA Poultry & Egg Export Council. “They’re one of our bright spots, as far as global markets are concerned. Vietnam is another growing market.”

In 2023, poultry exports reached a record $220 million in sales, selling 188,000 metric tons of poultry meat, mostly chicken, but also small amounts of turkey and duck. Tyler says that the Southeast Asian market continued to grow even during the COVID-19 pandemic and is anticipated to continue growing for many years.

“U.S. poultry consumption is growing with population growth—at a steady rate,” he says. “Poultry production is growing by 4% annually, so the more we can export, the better off the industry will be. Some 18–20% of U.S.-produced chicken is exported.”

What does this mean for soybean growers? It means more demand for soybeans to make poultry feed. U.S. poultry consumes 60% of the soybean meal produced in the U.S., so the industries are major partners. Based on 2023 export numbers, about 6.6 million bushels of U.S. soybeans ended up going overseas in the form of poultry meat. 

“We call chicken ‘flying soybeans,’” Tyler says. 

However, Brazil is still a major competitor. Although the U.S. is the largest chicken producer globally, Brazil exports more chicken than the U.S. The South American ag giant surpassed the U.S. in chicken exports in 2021 due to the discovery of highly pathogenic avian influenza in the U.S., but the U.S. remains the second largest exporter of chicken worldwide.

The Philippine meat processing and food service sectors are huge, presenting a tremendous opportunity for the U.S. poultry industry. Most retailers tend to purchase chicken leg quarters. However, Southeast Asian food handlers are accustomed to dealing with fresh, not frozen poultry. Proper food safety and handling is important when incorporating frozen poultry into product mixes and menu items.

“Globally, frozen poultry is a novelty to some markets,” Tyler says. “Frozen poultry has a longer shelf life, even more than a year. We’re trying to get more retailers to incorporate more frozen poultry, and the next step is getting consumers to try it.”

The USA Poultry & Egg Export Council conducted a seminar for food service operators and importers who bring poultry products into cold storage facilities. The purpose of the seminar was to educate them on how to maintain that cold chain, according to Tyler. 

“Although a lot of Southeast Asian cultures consume a lot of pork, chicken consumption is also very common,” Tyler says. “It’s a very cheap protein source. During tough economic times, poultry is a natural fit and goes so well with many local dishes.”

U.S. chicken is produced under strictly regulated safety standards and offers an accessible protein source for lower-income consumers. Tyler says the Council’s goal is to get more Southeast Asian food retailers and consumers to incorporate more U.S. poultry into their menus, whether they’re eating out or at home.

Published: Mar 25, 2024

The materials on SRIN were funded with checkoff dollars from United Soybean Board and the North Central Soybean Research Program. To find checkoff funded research related to this research highlight or to see other checkoff research projects, please visit the National Soybean Checkoff Research Database.