Broiler chickens are raised for meat rather than for eggs. The broiler industry was started in the late 1950's when chickens were selectively bred for meat production. Broiler chickens are housed in massive flocks mainly between 20,000 and 50,000 birds, with some flocks reaching over 100,000 birds. Broiler chicken farmers usually rear five or six batches of chickens per year.
After just six or seven weeks, broiler chickens are slaughtered (a chicken's natural lifespan is around seven years). Chickens marketed as pouissons, or spring chickens, are slaughtered after four weeks. A few are kept longer than seven weeks to be sold as the larger roasting chickens.
Prices - The average monthly price received by farmers for broilers (live weight) rose in 2007 by +22.9% yr/yr to a record high of 47.8 cents per pound. The average monthly price for wholesale broilers (ready-to-cook) in 2007 rose +18.7% to a record high of 76.37 cents per pound.
Supply - Total production of broilers in 2007 rose by +0.4% yr/yr to 35.900 billion pounds, which was a new record high. The number of broilers raised for commercial production in 2006 (latest data available) was virtually unchanged yr/yr at a record high of 8.882 billion birds. The average live-weight per bird rose by +1.8% to 5.49 pounds, which was a new record high and was about 50% heavier than the average bird weight of 3.62 pounds seen in 1970, attesting to the increased efficiency of the industry.
Demand - U.S. per capita consumption of broilers in 2007 fell by -1.7% to 85.4 pounds (ready-to-cook) per person per year, down from the 2006 record high of 86.9. U.S. consumption of chicken has nearly doubled in the past two decades, up from 47.0 pounds in 1980, as consumers have increased their consumption of chicken because of the focus on low-carb diets and because chicken is a leaner and healthier meat than either beef or pork.