WASHINGTON – Four companies were awarded 49.9 million lbs. of chicken under the US Department of Agriculture's bonus purchase program, the National Chicken Council reported.

USDA put the total value of the contracts, including transportation costs, at $49.8 million. Distribution of the chicken will be through the federal food nutrition assistance programs for fiscal year 2013. The unit prices awarded range from $0.5595 to $0.6644 per lb. for 4/10-lb. leg quarters and $0.6002 to $0.7301 per lb. for 8/5-lb. leg quarters.

USDA awarded contracts to:

• Peco Foods, Tuscaloosa, Ala. – 2,432,000 lbs. of 4/10-lb. leg quarters
• OK Foods, Fort Smith, Ark. – 6,840,000 lbs. of 4/10-lb. leg quarters
• Pilgrim’s Pride, Greeley, Colo. – 10,906,000 lbs. of 4/10-lb. leg quarters
• Tyson Foods, Springdale, Ark. – 29,222,000 lbs. of 4/10-lb. leg quarters and 30,058,000 lbs. of 8/5-lb. leg quarters

“Members of the National Chicken Council are most appreciative of USDA’s timely action that was in response to NCC’s request of Aug. 21, 2013,” said Mike Brown, NCC president. “The purchase of leg quarters will not only help stabilize the prices for this product but will, at the same time, provide a very preferred animal protein to needy recipients in the coming months.”

A surplus of dark-meat chicken in cold storage prompted USDA's Agriculture Marketing Service to announce a special purchase plan for the chicken products in early September. Chicken-leg quarters on June 30 had reached 138.7 million lbs., a 157 percent increase over inventory a year ago, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.