MIssissippi Poultry No industry can provide protein for humans at such a reasonable cost as the poultry industry, Mark Leggett says. The president of the Mississippi Poultry Association is proud to point out that poultry continues to be Mississippi’s top commodity, and farm gate impact numbers – the amount paid to farmers for raising chickens – have been above $2 billion every year since 2000. “Our state produces chicken for Mississippi residents and also ships to other U.S. states, plus we export to 60 foreign countries,” Leggett says. “Mississippi poultry is well positioned to feed growing populations throughout the world.” According to the United Nations, the rapidly growing world population will be consuming two-thirds more animal protein by 2050 than it does today. Mississippi already exports more than $300 million annually in poultry sales, with its biggest foreign customers being Mexico, Russia, Hong Kong, Angola and Cuba. “Poultry in Mississippi accounts for 55,000 direct and indirect jobs, with wages and salaries at around $1.2 billion,” Leggett says. “This state is home to six of the largest chicken broiler companies in the country – Koch Foods, Marshall Durbin Company, Peco Foods, Sanderson Farms, Tyson Foods and Wayne Farms – plus Cal-Maine Foods, the largest egg processor in the world, is based in Mississippi.” There are 2,000 poultry growers in the state that sell products and services to the six big companies. Among them is Danny Thornton, a Leake County farmer who was raised in the broiler business in central Mississippi. Thornton is considered an expert in the poultry industry, with 37 years of experience that included teaching agriculture at Mississippi State University in the Department of Poultry Science until his retirement in 2012. “Today, I raise pullets (young female chickens before they become hens) for Peco Foods on my Leake County farm,” Thornton says. “As for changes in the industry over my career, the biggest I’ve seen occurred 15 years ago with major advancements in technology for chicken production.” Thornton points out that one of those advancements was the upgrade of chicken houses, with today’s houses powered almost entirely by computers. “Ventilation fans, heaters, air inlets, cooling pads, feeders and drinkers are all set by computers that run the farm,” Thornton says. “The computers change the indoor temperatures as seasons change, and even record water usage, feed usage, chicken weights and more. But a producer must stay close to the farm to make sure the computers are running correctly, or you could quickly lose an entire operation.” Mississippi Poultry

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Hot and Warm Weather

On average, a new broiler house measures 500 feet long by 45 feet wide and costs $200,000 fully equipped. Typically, 25,000 birds are raised in each house and it takes one full-time worker to manage the facility, with the chickens reaching market size in about six weeks. “I spent $200,000 back in 2000 to update my chicken house with computer controls, and I truly needed to spend that much to have my farm run optimally and exactly,” Thornton says. He adds that central Mississippi is a perfect geographic location for poultry production, with the hot and warm weather ideal for raising chicks and chickens. “Central Mississippi is also close to the Gulf of Mexico and its shipping lanes to Europe and Asia,” he says. “Poultry keeps a lot of small Mississippi counties alive, especially in the central part of the state.” Mississippi Poultry

No Waste

The industry has become so advanced that basically every part of the chicken is used for consumption – even the feet. “Chicken feet are called paws, and in foreign markets, they are sold as a delicacy,” Thornton says. “ In this country, the paws and other parts of the chicken are rendered as a protein fat source in animal feed ingredients.Very few parts of the chicken aren’t utilized these days.” And even though demand for chicken seems to be growing more each year – especially in developing countries – the prices in the United States don’t change drastically. “If you look at chicken and egg prices from the 1960s and 1970s, they really don’t differ much from the prices in 2013,” Thornton says. “You can still get a dozen eggs for $1.50 and a pound of chicken breast for around $2. Plus – as we all know in the industry – it’s the purest protein source a human can eat.”

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