The price of chicken could match that of beef as the cost of feeding the birds continues to rise, the Co-op has warned.
The food retailer’s chief executive, Steve Murrells, said that feed costs are now a major challenge for the industry.
“Chicken could become as expensive as beef,” he warned. “Chicken, which was incredibly cheap and great value for money, is rising quicker than any other protein.”
It comes after the British Free Range Egg Producers Association said the cost of chicken feed has risen by 50 per cent over the last two years, and more price hikes are expected due to the Rusia-Ukraine war as well as rising fuel and energy costs.
Chicken has long been the UK’s most popular meat, particularly due to low prices in comparison to beef, lamb or pork. But the rising costs will hit families already struggling with the soaring cost of living hardest.
Higher chicken production costs have begun being reflected in the increased prices of Nando’s menu items.
In February, Nando’s raised the prices of some of its most popular chicken dishes by up to eight per cent.
A spokesperson for the fast food chain told The Sun that the increases were due to “the continued rise in the cost of ingredients and the difficult trading environment caused by Covid”.
In March, the 2 Sisters Food Group, which has chicken processing facilities in the UK and Europe, warned that input costs in chicken production has risen by 50 per cent in the past 12 months and the agricultural crisis in Ukraine could have “massive repercussions for global commodity supply”.
“Our chicken doesn’t arrive on dinner tables without farmers,” he said in a company statement.
“In fact, with no agriculture, there’s no business for us. Our concern is that a lot of people haven’t realised the food production clock is ticking.”
Murrell told The Sunday Times: “Customers will have to be savvy about what they can afford. They’ll buy a chicken, they’ll have it for a roast on Sunday, but then they’ll use the giblets and whatever to make a soup.
“Customers will find creative ways of making food last longer.”
Chicken feed usually comprises soya, sunflower meal, and wheat. The cost of each ingredient has risen, further exacerbated by the disruption caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine that began in February.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that the prices for food and non-alcoholic beverages rose by 5.9 per cent on the year, the highest 12-month rate since September 2011.
Data from the ONS shows that the average retail price of chicken has gone up by nearly 12 per cent, to £2.98 per kg in the last 12 months.