Organic Poultry Profile
Revised December, 2018.
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. 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 2016 totaled more than 19 million. The number of certified organic layer hens produced that year was more than 15 million, and the number of certified organic turkeys produced was 410 thousand.
Pennsylvania led the nation in organic broiler production, followed by California, Virginia, and Iowa. The largest producers of organic hens were Pennsylvania, California, Missouri, North Carolina and Iowa (ERS).
As of December 31, 2016, more than 19.5 million organic broilers were being raised in 27 states. Pennsylvania reported the highest number of organic broilers on hand (more than 10 million), followed by California (more than 8 million) and Virginia (more than 730 thousand). Sales of U.S. organic broilers totaled more than $749 million in 2016. (ERS, 2017)
As of December 31, 2016, nearly 15.7 million organic layer hens were being raised in 38 states. Five states dominated that market: Pennsylvania (2.2 million), California (1.9 million), Missouri (1.4 million), North Carolina (1.1 million) and Texas (555 thousand). Sales of U.S. organic layers totaled more than $2.4 million in 2016. (NASS 2017)
U.S. sales of organic turkeys topped $83 million in 2016. Pennsylvania reported the highest sales, however most statistical information was not available for other states. (NASS 2017)
Most organic products command a price premium. 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.
USDA ERS, 2017
Chicken Eggs, Table 18. Organic Livestock and Poultry Products Sold on Certified and Exempt Organic Farms: 2016, 2016 Organic Production Survey, National Ag Statistics Service (NASS), USDA, 2017.
Layer Chickens, Broiler Chickens and Turkeys, Table 17. Organic Livestock and Poultry on Certified and Exempt Organic Farms: 2016, 2016 Organic Production Survey, NASS, USDA, 2017.
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.