Canadian Chicken Industry: Consumer Preferences, Industry Structure and Producer Benefits from Investment in Research and Advertising
The Canadian chicken industry has operated under supply management since the mid-1970s. Canadian consumer preferences for chicken have grown dramatically since then possibly in response to concerns about health and the levels of fat and cholesterol in red meats. However Canadian consumers are also looking for convenience with their food purchases. Canadians are buying their chicken in frozen further processed forms, fresh by cut without skin and bone and in a variety of other different ways reflecting their unique willingness to pay for various attributes. There is also an increasing trend for retailers and processors to brand the fresh chicken product sold through grocery stores (for example, Maple Leaf Prime). The preferences Canadian consumer have for various chicken products, the prices they are comfortable paying and the strategies followed by processors/retailers can directly affect the outcomes of industry wide strategies such as investment in generic advertising and research or the impact of international market changes such as border closures. This research is an initial attempt to quantify Canadian consumer preferences – for fresh product by type – for product by level of processing – for chicken product by cut - for fresh chicken by brand - to examine the impact of substitutability on a variety of market shocks. The various different disaggregations of Canadian chicken consumption are used in a number of simulation models to illustrate how important preferences are to producer returns when there are market shocks. If Canadians found all chicken products available in the grocery store to be perfectly substitutable then previous policy analysis assuming chicken is one homogeneous product would be sufficient for industry policy analysis purposes. If Canadians view all the different chicken products as imperfectly substitutable and given that various chicken products are produced in relatively fixed proportions (white and dark meat, for example) further understanding of how consumers make their purchase decisions could enhance the industries ability to predict outcomes. For example, border closing to Canadian exports ( as a result of an Avian influenza outbreak, for example) would result in a significant increase in the dark meat products available for sale through Canadian grocery stores. The results presented in this research could provide a clue as to how much dark meat prices might decline while white meat prices might remain unaffected. The results reported suggest that at the consumer level, chicken fresh and frozen products are not perceived to be perfect substitutes, within a narrow category such as fresh chicken breasts, they are not perceived as even close substitutes, within the fresh category branded products such as those developed by Lilydale and Maple Leaf are not perceived as perfect substitutes. As well, an initial look at the demand for individual chicken products by household suggests that there is far from a common buying pattern across Canadian households, even within a single province. The results also suggest that health and convenience attributes are driving Canadian consumer preferences. Simulation results highlight the fact that pricing strategies followed by major processors/retailers within Canada can influence the returns to generic advertising and research. Further research could provide additional robust estimates of the chicken product substitutability existing in the Canadian market and an increased understanding of the market characteristics currently operating. The results presented here suggest that further work in this area is important for the chicken industry to pursue.
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