Tyson blames underperforming roosters for US chicken shortage

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Underperforming roosters that aren’t producing as many chicks as expected are partly to blame for the US poultry shortage, according to executives at Tyson Foods.

The Springdale, Arkansas-based company, one of the world’s largest producers of poultry and other meats, said earlier this week that it’s struggling to ramp up chicken supply because the new roosters it’s been using for fertilizing eggs and breeding new chicks simply aren’t hitting expectations.

“We’re changing out one [type of] male that, quite frankly, we made a bad decision on,” Donnie King, president of Tyson’s poultry business, said Monday on a conference call with analysts.

Breeding companies provide hens and roosters to chicken producers like Tyson, which then breed the birds and hatch their eggs to produce poultry. Tyson owns one of the major breeding companies in the US, Cobb-Vantress.

King explained that the company discovered that eggs fertilized by this specific type of rooster hatch less often, limiting the company’s supply just as nationwide demand for chicken is sky high. He added that the company is working to replace the rooster by the fall, but there could be a lingering supply hit that carries over into next year. 

The hatching crisis hit Tyson in January, after it introduced the type of rooster that’s now getting the boot, King said. The breeding problem could be responsible for as much as half of Tyson’s problems meeting demand for its chicken, King said.

“It’s about a 50/50 split between the hatch issue for us and the strong demand,” King told reporters after the earnings call, according to Reuters. “We’ll get our supply sorted out.”

There are a variety of other factors also holding back chicken supply, according to Gary Mickelson, a spokesperson for Tyson. He said the winter storm that slammed Texas earlier this year as well as “worker absenteeism” and a surge in demand are also hurting supply. 

He added that the company switched to the new kind of rooster because it improved the quality of meat.

But since Tyson experienced the unexpected drop in chicks, it has moved back to the roosters it previously used, he said.

As the Post previously reported, there’s simply not enough chicken to go around as US demand for the meat surges. A meat-processing slowdown caused by pandemic safety measures along with a surge in demand for recently rolled out fried chicken sandwiches are largely behind the shortage, fast-food executives said last month.

“Demand for the new sandwich has been so strong that, coupled with general tightening in domestic chicken supply, our main challenge has been keeping up with that demand,” David Gibbs, CEO of Yum Brands, told investors last month. KFC, which is owned by Yum Brands, recently rolled out a new fried chicken sandwich.

Other companies, including Dallas, Texas-based Wingstop, Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bojangles and Buffalo Wild Wings have all reported that they’ve also struggled to meet demand in recent weeks.

With Post wires.

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