Japan’s love for chicken pushes up meat consumption

By Kathryn Wortley

- Last updated on GMT

Japan is reporting a growing appetite for chicken during 2018
Japan is reporting a growing appetite for chicken during 2018
Meat consumption in Japan rose in 2018, but only because of a growing appetite for chicken, according to data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD).

Poultry consumption was up from 16.9kg per capita in 2017 to 17.2kg in 2018, making it the only meat that experienced consumption growth in the country last year. Pork and sheep meat held steady at 15.5kg per capita and 0.1kg per capita respectively, while beef and veal meat consumption actually fell year-on-year from 7.2kg per capita to 7.1kg per capita.  

The Japan Chicken Association attributed 2018’s rise in the appetite for poultry to Japan’s greying society.

“Due to the ageing population, people are more health-conscious, making chicken – especially breast meat – popular because of its low fat and high protein content. And many people feel that beef and other red meat is too rich for them as they get older,”​ a representative told GlobalMeatNews​.

Although Japanese consumers have tended in the past to shift their protein consumption from meat to fish as they age, he pointed out that mass media coverage in 2018 of chicken’s antioxidant properties and ability to help fight fatigue is slowing this shift.

“Doctors used to tell the elderly to stop eating meat, but recently, malnutrition amongst the elderly has become a problem, so there is growing widespread recognition among the public that meat is necessary to maintain health. Chicken has become more well-known as a good, functional food,”​ he said. 

Of the chicken purchased in 2018, more than half was at eateries, largely in the form of yakitori chicken skewers, fried chicken and processed foods containing chicken. Some 30-40% of sales were of raw chicken and 10% were within ready meals, much of which was ‘salad chicken’ (vacuum-packed cooked chicken breasts of various flavours).

According to the Japan Chicken Association, the country’s growth in chicken consumption was expected to continue in 2019. Ming Li, a representative of convenience store chain Lawson, agreed, pointing out that the company expected its Japan sales of chicken products, such as salad chicken and fried chicken, to “keep strong”​ this year and beyond.

KFC Holdings Japan is also eyeing growth. In 2018, it recorded its highest sales ever over a Christmas period – an important sales period for KFC in Japan, where consumers like to eat its fried chicken for Christmas. Totalling ‎¥​‎6.9 billion (US$63.1m) from 21-25 December, sales were 102.3% up on the same period year-on-year.

In addition to KFC’s traditional Christmas Packs (there are four sizes, each with original chicken, chicken tenders, chicken nuggets, BBQ chicken, habanero chicken and sides) and its festive Party Barrel, there were new offerings, including the Christmas Pair Pack (original chicken, chicken tenders, chicken nuggets and BBQ chicken). KFC also offered a new online pre-order system, through which 30% of all orders were placed.

Related topics: Poultry, Japan, Industry & Markets

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