Chicken continues growing in interest in retail markets, but based on chicken-specific input in the new National Meat Case Study (NMCS) 2010, current trends indicate some swings have taken place in certain chicken categories since the last NMCS was published. The study, which was also conducted in 2002, 2004 and 2007, was sponsored by Sealed Air/Cryovac, the Beef Checkoff and the Pork Checkoff.

Looking at the total percentage of packaged chicken, breasts, ground and chicken for ingredients were the “gainers” in comparing 2010 stats against 2007 stats; parts and whole chicken were the “losers”. In 2010, breasts made up 44 percent of packages; parts (drum, thigh, wings), 38 percent; whole, 9 percent; hearts, livers and gizzards, 4 percent; ground, 3 percent; and ingredient (stir fry) was 2 percent. In 2007, these categories totaled 43 percent, 40 percent, 10 percent, 4 percent, 2 percent and 1 percent, respectively.

In comparing 2010 versus 2007, the breast and other category (primarily cutlets) increased the most in percent of packages. For 2010, boneless breast totaled 47 percent; split breast, 18 percent; boneless breast tenderloin, 15 percent; boneless breast filet, 7 percent; and others (valueadded, cutlets, non), 13 percent. In 2007, these respective categories totaled 47 percent, 18 percent, 16 percent, 9 percent and 10 percent.

Adding value
Value-added breasts remained 10 percent of total breast percent of packages in 2010 compared to 2007. The 2004 NMCS indicated this category totaled 13 percent.

Value-added chicken breasts were varied and small in volume in percent of total chicken packages when comparing 2010 to 2007: Boneless skinless breasts Italian, 1.3 percent vs. 1.0 percent; boneless skinless breasts roasted garlic, 0.4 percent vs. 0.4 percent; breast filets garlic and herb, 0.4 percent vs. NA; boneless skinless breast filets garlic, 0.4 percent vs. 0.2 percent; boneless skinless breasts roasted garlic w/white wine, 0.4 percent vs. NA; Chicken Cordon Bleu, 0.3 percent vs. 0.7 percent; breast filets zesty lemon herb, 0.2 percent vs. NA; boneless skinless breast filets lemon pepper, 0.2 percent vs. 0.2 percent; boneless breast cutlets lemon garlic, 0.2 percent vs. 0.3 percent; and split breasts seasoned, 0.2 percent vs. 0.3 percent.

Getting ‘a leg up’
Leg quarters were a larger percent of the parts category in 2010: In comparing the chicken parts categories/ self-service only in the 2010 NMCS to the 2007 NMCS, drum sticks were 27 percent vs. 30 percent; bone-in thighs, 21 percent vs. 20 percent; boneless thighs, 5 percent vs. 7 percent; wings, 15 percent vs. 16 percent; leg quarters, 15 percent vs. 8 percent (+7 percent); whole cut-up, 4 percent vs. 5 percent; wingettes, 3 percent vs. 3 percent; drumettes, 2 percent vs. 3 percent; and others, 8 percent vs. 8 percent.

Enhanced chicken with and without flavor added returned to 2004 levels in percent of packages when comparing 2010 to 2007 totals: enhanced only, 22 percent vs. 11 percent; and enhanced with flavor, 5 percent vs. 3 percent.

In comparing 2010 to 2007, enhanced breasts and parts in percent of packages became a larger share of chicken: Breasts, enhanced only, 25 percent vs. 11 percent; and breasts enhanced with flavor added, 6 percent vs. 5 percent; parts enhanced only, 21 percent vs. 14 percent; and parts enhanced with flavor added, 1 percent vs. NA.

Enhanced whole chicken, ingredient and ground chicken increased in 2010 compared to 2007 in percent of packages: whole chicken enhanced, 27 percent vs. 9 percent; whole chicken enhanced with flavor added, 2 percent vs. 6 percent; ingredient chicken enhanced with flavor added, 44 percent vs. 31 percent; ground chicken enhanced only, 5 percent vs. 1 percent; and ground chicken enhanced with flavor added, 4 percent vs. NA.

Value-added chicken remained at 7 percent of total chicken packages in percent of packages in 2010 compared to 2007.

Seasoned is top descriptor
Once again, “seasoned” was the leading value-added descriptor in 2010 compared to 2007: Breast, 80 percent vs. 74 percent; parts, 95 percent vs. 95 percent; and whole, 87 percent vs. 81 percent.

Seasoned, roasted/grilled and breaded led chicken heat-and-serve descriptions (percent of packages) in the 2010 NMCS compared to the 2007 study: Seasoned, 44 percent vs. 35 percent; roasted/grilled, 30 percent vs. 27 percent; breaded, 15 percent vs. 24 percent; sauce/veg/crust, 2 percent vs. 5 percent; gravy, 3 percent vs. 3 percent.

Strips, including cuts and carved, increased to 51 percent of heat-andserve chicken (in percent of packages) in 2010 vs. 37 percent in 2007.

The top 15 chicken heat-andserve items in descending 2010 order compared to 2007 are: Breast strips grilled, 11.9 percent vs. 8 percent; shredded chicken BBQ, 8.4 percent vs. 4 percent; breast strips Southwest, 6 percent vs. 4.4 percent; breast strips for fajitas, 5.9 percent vs. 3.1 percent; diced breast oven-roasted, 4.3 percent vs. 2.6 percent; carved breast grilled, 3.9 percent vs. <2.0 percent; carved breast original roasted, 3.6 percent vs. 4.1 percent; carved breast honey roasted, 3.5 percent vs. 3.2 percent; breast nuggets, 3.3 percent vs. 4.1 percent; breast cuts oven-roasted, 2.9 percent vs. <2.0 percent; chicken breast and gravy, 2.5 percent vs. 2.9 percent; carved breast oven-roasted, 2.2 percent vs. <2.0 percent; breast strips Italian, 2.1 percent vs. <2.0 percent; chicken pot pie, 2.0 percent vs. 2.7 percent; and carved breast Southwest, 1.7 percent vs. <2.0 percent. Twenty-two percent of chicken packages consisted of skinless products in 2010; Family/value packs increased in 2010 as percent of packages. The largest value-pack increase was in parts. And ingredients increased in value packs and skinless products in 2010 in percent of packages.

“Minimally processed” was the leading production claim in chicken in 2010 percent of packages making claims.

Boneless breast products increased share in percent of packages in 2010 vs. 2007.

Value-added parts also grew when comparing 2010 to 2007, but were still minor in parts mix in percent of packages: 2.6 percent vs. 1.7 percent. Natural claims on chicken packages decreased in 2010 compared to 2007 in percent of packaging: Breast, 59 percent vs. 67 percent; parts, 61 percent vs. 70 percent; and whole, 62 percent vs. 76 percent. However, organic chicken packages increased to 2.1 percent of total.

Store-brand chicken on a roll
Although most chicken packages are still national branded, store-branded chicken increased significantly in 2010 compared to 2007: 35 percent vs. 26 percent, respectively. Store branding grew significantly in chicken breast, parts and whole chicken, as well as in minor categories.

In 2010, the share of exact-weight chicken packaging saw a small increase compared to 2007 – 16 percent vs. 15 percent.

Case-ready maintained a high share of chicken packaging in 2010 vs. 2007 – both years totaled 94 percent. Case-ready maintained a high share in breasts, parts and whole chicken in percent of packages when comparing 2010 vs. 2007. And case-ready maintained a high share in ground chicken, ingredient chicken and offal chicken in percent of packages.
Case-ready chicken had a much better in-stock position in 2010 than store-wrap in percent of SKUs.

Vacuum-packaging increased its share in chicken packaging in 2010, but store-wrapped appearance declined in chicken packages in the 2010 study compared to the 2007 study.

The study indicates yellow was the most-used chicken tray color when comparing 2010 to 2007; however, white trays lost share in percent of packages. Meanwhile, “other” colors of trays and no trays increased their share in chicken breasts; white trays in general, however, were less popular. The foam tray was the dominant chicken packaging in 2010.

For more information on the 2010 National Meat Case Study, including more in-depth data about specific species, please send an e-mail to