a national information resource for value-added agriculture
Agricultural Marketing Resource Center

Organic Poultry Profile

By Marsha Laux, content specialist, AgMRC, Iowa State University, mlaux@iastate.edu.
Revised January 2013 by Diane Huntrods, AgMRC, Iowa State University.


The largest volume of organic meat sales is for poultry. Chicken is the most widely available organic meat; it is found in a large number of natural food retailers and conventional groceries. Chicken is also the most popular natural and organic meat, purchased by more than seven in ten shoppers (73%). Organic chicken dominates because of the relatively short production cycle, low price premium and integrated production compared to beef or pork.


According to USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS), the number of certified organic broilers produced in 2008 totaled more than 9.0 million. The number of certified organic layer hens produced that year was more than 5.5 million, and the number of certified organic turkeys produced was 398.5 thousand.

Nebraska led the nation in organic broiler production, followed by California, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. The largest producers of organic hens were Pennsylvania, California, Wisconsin, Iowa and Ohio. The largest producers of organic turkeys were California, Pennsylvania, Iowa and MIchigan.  (ERS) 

As of December 31, 2008, more than 4.6 million organic broilers were being raised in 35 states. California reported the highest number of organic broilers on hand (nearly 2.8 million), followed by Pennsylvania (more than 537 thousand) and Iowa (more than 224 thousand).

Sales of U.S. organic broilers totaled more than $195.8 million in 2008. Again, California ranked first, with sales of nearly $129.2 million. Pennsylvania had sales of nearly $15.1 million and Iowa had sales of more than $8.8 million. Some statistical information about organic broiler production was not available for Nebraska and North Carolina.  (NASS 2010)

In 2008, more than 80.4 million dozen organic eggs were produced on 978 U.S. farms. The organic eggs were valued at $154.8 million. The largest producers of organic eggs were located in California (15.8 million dozen), Pennsylvania (14.4 million dozen), Iowa (4.9 million dozen), Washington (4.4 million dozen) and Wisconsin (4.3 million dozen).   (NASS 2010)

As of December 31, 2008, nearly 4.1 million organic layer hens were being raised in 46 states. Five states dominated that market: California (778 thousand), Pennsylvania (598 thousand), Iowa (253 thousand), Texas (249 thousand) and Washington (243 thousand). These states accounted for 51 percent of organic layer numbers. Sales of U.S. organic layers totaled nearly $2.2 million in 2008.  (NASS 2010)

U.S. sales of organic turkeys topped $8.7 million in 2008. California reported the highest sales ($2.7 million), followed by Wisconsin (more than $144 thousand) and Washington (moroe than $35 thousand). However, some statistical information was not available for Michigan, Pennsylvania and Iowa.  (NASS 2010)


Most organic products command a price premium. For example, the average price premium for organic broilers ranged from 169 percent in 2004 to 262 percent in 2006. The overall average price premium from January 2004 through June 2006 was 200 percent.

Actual wholesale prices for organic broilers ranged from $2.21 to $2.48 per pound in 2008, while the average wholesale price for conventional broilers ranged from $0.74 to $0.85 per pound that year. Likewise, actual wholesale prices for organic eggs ranged from $2.37 to $2.78 per dozen and for conventional eggs ranged from $0.98 to $1.55 per dozen.  (ERS 2009) 

However, organic producers must recover higher production costs than conventional producers. Organic feed is costly, running 50 to 100 percent more than conventional feed, and sometimes difficult to obtain. A lack of certified processing facilities, especially small and medium sized, also contributes to higher production costs. Other factors may include smaller flock sizes, higher mortality, longer growth period for broilers and more frequent replacement of layers.

Price continues to restrain sales of organic meat. More than six in ten shoppers (63 percent) said they would buy more organic meat if the prices were more in line with those of conventionally produced meat. (Food Marketing Institute 2007)


The demand for organic meats is outpacing supply, causing global supply to tighten. A number of regions are reporting an undersupply because organic meat production is not keeping pace. As demand strengthens, organic meat supply shortages are expected to continue. Australia, Canada and Latin America are already established sources of organic meat products. (Organic Monitor 2006)  

Tracking of the organic meat market is not well developed; however, increased poultry consumption coupled with the growth and awareness of the organic food market signifies opportunities in this agricultural sector.


Chicken Eggs, Table 11. Organic Livestock and Poultry Products Sold on Certified and Exempt Organic Farms: 2008, 2008 Organic Production Survey, National Ag Statistics Service (NASS), USDA, 2010.

Layer Chickens, Broiler Chickens and Turkeys, Table 10. Organic Livestock and Poultry on Certified and Exempt Organic Farms: 2008, 2008 Organic Production Survey, NASS, USDA, 2010.

Layer Hens, Broilers and Turkeys, Table 5. U.S. Certified Organic Livestock, 2008, by State, Economic Research Service (ERS) datasets, USDA - Excel table providing number of certified organic poultry by state. 

Organic Monitor, 2006.

Wholesale Organic Poultry and Egg Prices, Ag Marketing Service, USDA - Weekly reports on price, sales and production data for organic poultry and eggs.

Organic Poultry Gaining in Specialty Market Competition, Amber Waves, ERS, USDA, 2007 - Explains why poultry is among the fastest growing organic food products in the United States, despite high feed costs and other challenges in production and marketing.

Organic Poultry Production in the United States, Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA), NCAT, 2008.

Organic Production and Markets: The National Picture slide presentation, ERS, USDA, 2007.

Retail and Wholesale Organic Egg Prices, ERS, USDA.

Wholesale Organic Poultry Prices, ERS, USDA.

Profile created January 2003 and links checked January 2013.

Links checked: December 2013


USDA Rural DevelopmentPartially Funded by USDA Rural Development
...and justice for all.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, and marital or family status. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.) Many materials can be made available in alternative formats for ADA clients. To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326-W, Whitten Building, 14th and Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call 202-720-5964.

Iowa State University

The names, words, symbols, and graphics representing Iowa State University are trademarks and copyrights of the university, protected by trademark and copyright laws of the U.S. and other countries.