Poultry is one of Alabama's top agriculture commodities.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

They may not be able to answer this question, but they can certainly explain the difference between broilers and layers. They are Alabama’s poultry farmers, and in this state, birds are big business.

The poultry industry contributes more than $10 billion to the state economy and is the leading agricultural revenue segment for the state. Alabama ranks third nationally in broiler production and 14th in eggs.

“The poultry industry in Alabama is strong and a big part of the state’s economy, particularly in the rural areas of the state,” says Johnny Adams, executive director of the Alabama Poultry & Egg Association. More than one-third of the state’s counties rely to some degree on the poultry industry.

Location and Public Support

Favorable climate and geography certainly makes Alabama particularly well-suited for poultry farming.

“We also benefit greatly by a supportive state legislature that understands our business,” Adams says.

While heavily impacted in recent years by higher fuel and feed costs, the future is bright for the poultry industry in Alabama, says Adams, adding that exports of Alabama poultry is expected to increase in coming years. Alabama already ships nearly $424 million in poultry exports annually.

The Alabama Poultry & Egg Association represents more than 3,500 family poultry farms, 10 processing companies and more than 100 allied companies in the state. The poultry industry provides jobs for more than 80,000 individuals in Alabama.

The partnership between poultry farmers and poultry companies or integrators benefits both parties, Adams says. The system has provided farmers an opportunity to participate in poultry production while allowing integrators the opportunity to invest more capital in processing and marketing.

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The Alabama poultry industry was hit hard by several devastating tornadoes in 2011

Help After Devastating Tornado

Alabama’s poultry industry was especially hard hit by severe tornados in April of 2011. More than 1,000 poultry houses suffered damage from the storms.

Individuals and businesses from across the state rushed to aid victims of the storm, and the Alabama Poultry & Egg Association established a tornado relief fund to help poultry farmers with immediate personal needs after the storm. The funds helped farmers with food, clothing, housing, medication, transportation, and other needs and provided a bridge of support until federal and state assistance and insurance benefits arrived.

Christina Cooper, a third-generation poultry farmer from Phil Campbell, Ala., lost all four of her poultry houses and sustained heavy damage to her home. Cooper says the money she received from the association’s relief fund was a life saver for her and her family.

I don’t know what I would have done without their help,” she says. “We are truly grateful.”

The relief funds the Cooper family received helped her with expenses until insurance funds arrived. Now she is rebuilding her farm.

Phillip Roberson, a poultry farmer from Mt. Hope, near Russellville, lost six poultry houses and most of his equipment.

“I couldn’t believe it when 50 or 60 people arrived at our farm to help us clean up the damage,” Roberson says. With the help of the relief fund and other assistance, he plans to rebuild at least four of his houses.

“We have a resilient group of farmers who have persevered through this terrible storm,”  Adams says. “Many have decided to rebuild and we are particularly pleased that we were able to provide some immediate help through the tornado relief fund.”

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