CHICKEN could soon be a "luxury meat" and more expensive than beef steak, a leading supermarket chief has warned.
Steve Murrells, chief executive of Co-op supermarkets, said the rocketing cost of bird feed is to blame for ever increasing chicken prices in the UK.
This is because feed – which is the biggest cost of raising poultry – has increased by half since 2020 as prices for its ingredients have soared amid the cost of living crisis and Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
This is in stark contrast to cattle raised in the UK, which is primarily fed grass and does not need high-density feed.
As a result, “Chicken could become as expensive as beef", Mr Murrells told The Sunday Times.
The former senior manager at Sainsbury’s and Tesco explained: "Chicken, which was incredibly cheap and great value for money, is rising quicker than any other protein.”
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Chicken is now the same price as beef in numerous UK supermarkets, and is set to over take it, despite a kilo of beef usually being at least three times as much,
In Marks & Spencer, organic free-range chicken breasts and organic British beef rump steak are both £24.15 a kilogram.
While pack of two Tesco Finest beef rump steaks are £16.67 a kilogram, whereas its Finest corn-fed free range chicken fillets are £16.50.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics show how between March 2020 and March this year, the price of chicken rose by an astonishing 19 per cent.
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In contrast, the cost of beef mince increased by only 3 per cent, a beef roasting joint increased by 11 per cent.
These price rises have also hit chicken restaurants and takeaways like Nando’s and KFC who have increased their prices in recent months.
Ten chicken wings with two sides at Nando’s rose from £14.95 to £15.45 last November and to £16 last month.
If chicken out crows beef in price, it would be the first time that has happened since the 1950s.
Ingredients such as soya, a by-product of sunflower oil called sunflower meal and wheat, tend to make up chicken feed.
But the price of all of these ingredients have soared as a result of the war in Ukraine and poor harvests.
Ukraine accounts for half of all global sunflower oil trade, and Russia and Ukraine produce about a third of the global supply of wheat.
You could see a shift into pasture [animals], you could see a shift into more plant-based food
The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has now revealed the cost of rearing a chicken has risen by a whopping 50 per cent in the past year alone.
Reflecting on the price rises, Mr Murrells, who was speaking at The Retail & eCommerce directors’ forum, suggested customers may now switch to other meats or vegan alternatives.
He said: “You could see a shift into pasture [animals], you could see a shift into more plant-based food.
"Customers will have to be savvy about what they can afford."
James Mottershead, chairman of the NFU’s poultry board, said energy and feed costs for farmers were “skyrocketing”.
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He said: “This escalating situation is causing many to consider their future in the industry.
“We are in discussion with retailers about how farm businesses can remain viable and resilient to ensure there are ample amounts of British poultry on shop shelves.”
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