02 9929 4077

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PO Box 579, North Sydney NSW 2059




02 9929 4077

02 9925 0627

ABN 24 077 883 026

History of the Industry in Australia

Australia’s chicken meat industry is a relative newcomer compared to other major livestock industries.

As official records were not kept until the mid 1960s, it is not certain when intensive poultry production began. Industry sources estimate three million broilers were produced in 1950/51, compared with around 420 million in 2003/04.



  • The poultry industry expanded rapidly as demand escalated, growing almost seven-fold.
  • Most production was in the hands of ‘backyard’ producers and larger family operations, who tended to produce chickens as an offshoot to egg production, while also producing or distributing other commodities.
  • Commercial production started in the outer Sydney metropolitan area, and other centres of commercial production quickly sprang up around major population centres.
  • The first real efforts to develop an Australian meat chicken breed resulted in the release of Australia’s first scientifically bred meat chicken strain in 1959.
  • Chicken processing became faster and more efficient as continuous chain processing systems were introduced, leading to a rapid drop in the price consumers paid for chicken.


  • Chicken meat consumption increased five-fold.
  • The commercial chicken meat industry continued to grow.
  • The ‘integrator’ emerged in the industry. These vertically integrated companies were fashioned on a highly successful US meat chicken company model. They owned chicken breeding and hatching operations, feed mills and chicken processing plants and either owned or contracted the growing of chickens from day-old to slaughter weight. This continues to be a successful model in the Australian market.
  • Kentucky Fried Chicken opened its first Australian store in 1968. It had a major impact on chicken consumption.


  • In just 12 months as 75 Kentucky Fried Chicken stores opened, Australian production of chicken increased 38%.
  • Production more than doubled again in the 1970s because of improvements in the genetic material available, refinement of the nutrition and husbandry of broiler chickens, improvements in processing technologies and further growth in demand,.


  • Production and consumption of chicken continued to grow, although less spectacularly.

1990s and onward

  • New breeding strains entered the market as importation requirements changed.

Breeding Chickens for meat
From the late 1940s until the late 1980s, importing live poultry, eggs for hatching, or sera was prohibited. For this reason local breeders developed their own strains of chickens, looking for growth and meat producing characteristics.

From the late 1980s, breeder birds could be imported through quarantine facilities at Torrens Island, South Australia and Spotswood, Victoria. The first commercial meat chicken hatching eggs were introduced through Torrens Island in August 1990. Today, virtually all broiler chickens used in commercial production (see Genetics) are derived from imported eggs through either the government’s quarantine facility at Torrens Island, or company-owned quarantine facilities (see Quarantine Facility).

As a result of selective breeding techniques, chickens used for meat production and egg production are very different birds. Despite community perception, birds used for egg production are not sold for the table.

Price of Chicken Meat over Time

Chicken meat has continued to get cheaper compared to other meat.  This is clearly illustrated in our industry statistics and graphs section.

Two factors have driven this change.

  • Increasingly automated poultry plants.
  • Improvements in how efficiently chickens convert feed into meat. These gains are due to improved breeds of chicken more suited to meat production, better nutrition, improved health management and better husbandry strategies
  • No hormones are added to chickens in Australia

The price competitiveness of chicken, increasing product diversity, improved quality, better consistency and targeted marketing, have made chicken one of Australia’s favourite meats.

Go to Statistics over time  for a graphic illustration of changes in production, price and efficiency over a 40 year period.

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