Poultry again took the top spot among Mississippi’s agricultural commodities for 2012, with a preliminary estimated value of $2.5 billion.

The total estimated value of poultry increased from 2011 by 6.2 percent. Broilers gained 7 percent in value, while eggs and chickens stayed level with 2011’s values.

John Michael Riley, agricultural economist with Mississippi State University’s Extension Service, said poultry values for 2012 are higher than 2011 values and have increased everyyear for the past five years.

“Broiler prices in Mississippi have continued to trend up, with a 9 percent increase over 2011,” Riley said. “Stronger prices compared to 2011are the primary reason for the higher broiler value, given that pounds produced were down by about 2 percent.”

The commodity’s stability is due to its popularity among consumers.

“Poultry has long been considered a value protein compared to beef and pork, and it thrived during the height of the recession,” Riley said. “But with the uptick in the economy, beef prices decreased, and poultry took a bit of a hit as a result.”

Estimated values of eggs and chickens dropped only slightly, and did not seriously impact the total commodity value.

“Even with the stalled economy, chicken products remain a very competitive protein option for the consumer,” said Tom Tabler, Extension professor in the Department of Poultry Science at MSU. “In addition, historically high feed prices have kept a lid on production, and there is not an oversupply of poultry on the market.”

The industry remains sturdy despite high corn and soybean prices -- primary feed ingredients -- coupled with low market prices.

“The drought caused the price of feed to rise, and demand for poultry has not been as strong as in past years,” Tabler said. “The consumer is very cost-conscious at the grocery store, and product loyalty, whether it’s to poultry, beef or pork, may take a backseat to the best bargain. So we will likely see the poultry industry try to prop the price up a bit until export prices and demand improves and domestic demandincreases.”

Nationally, Mississippi ranks fifth behind Georgia, Arkansas Alabama and North Carolina in overall poultry production.

In 2012, Mississippi producers placed approximately 780 million chicks and produced nearly 1.4 billion table eggs.

A decrease in feed costs could lift the poultry industry’s confidence in 2013.

“If the drought breaks and grain prices go down, we might see a cautious expansion of production,” Tabler said. “But if grain prices remain high, the industry will be reluctant to increase production.”

Soybeans displaced forestry as the second-highest commodity in the state for the first time in history, with a total estimated value of approximately $1.6 billion. Forestry, with a total estimated value of $1.03 billion, ranked thirdin the state. The current total estimated 2012 year-end value of all agricultural commodities is $7.5 billion. Final figures will be determined in February 2013.