BROILER CHICK placings were still running at a three-year low in October, despite the continuing emphasis on UK-sourced retail sales in the marketplace throughout the pandemic.
Total day-old chick numbers during the month were down 310,000 a week compared with October last year.
See also: More poultrymeat and egg market data
The official Defra data shows that chick placings have now fallen in five out of the last six months, indicating that the massive swing to preparing meals at home has not fully compensated for reduced activity in the catering sector.
During the seven months since lockdown first began, chick placings have now fallen by an overall total of 6.75 million.
Yet many might argue that these stats, showing only a one per cent drop year-on-year compared with April-October 2019, are a significant achievement for the industry given the pressures imposed by the upheavals in the marketplace and the restrictions of safe working.
Data for the overall output of chicken still shows a positive trend to date, even for the period of lockdown.
Between April and October, UK chicken production was up by nearly 3,000 tonnes on last year.
When placings for April and May are removed, which correspond to birds placed before lockdown started, the year-on-year increase drops to 1,000 tonnes, boosted by the brief revival in day-old placings in July.
However, with the trend for day-old placings continuing downwards, this is likely to pull chicken output below 2019 in the months to come.
Meanwhile, the picture on total poultrymeat has been less confident, showing a fall in production of 7,400 tonnes since April.
The turkey sector has suffered a sharp setback with output falling by 6,400 tonnes year-on-year.
Added to that is a drop in duck production of 3,600 tonnes during April-October, a substantial fall of 22%, reflecting a sector that relies heavily on catering uptake.