Are poultry farmers “feather bedded”?

So poultry producers are the richest farmers in the country – and by a long shot. That, at any rate, is the simple conclusion from the recently-released Farm Business Income estimates by Defra.

abacusThe figures suggest that, for 2014/15, the average poultry farmer made profits of £140,500 – some 11% lower than in 2013/14, but still enough for a couple of skiing holidays and maybe a spa weekend for the wife.

And, compared with other farming sectors, poultry farming is in a league of its own. Dairy farmers are way behind on £78,000, followed by arable farmers with £56,000, all the way down to livestock farmers, scratching a living on £16,000 a year.

But describing this data set as “simple” is something of an overstatement. “Meaningless drivel” is a more accurate assessment.

Even by Defra’s own admission, “forecasts for specialist poultry farms are subject to a considerable degree of uncertainty”. The footnotes reveal that removing just one “very influential” poultry farm from the calculation – just one – would have cut last year’s average profit by £57,000!

But the biggest weakness is that the figures group all types of poultry production under one roof. That £140,000 figure covers everybody – from the small free-range egg producer to industrial scale broiler growers.

Defra is right to suggest that people can make money in the poultry sector. But not everybody does, and mixing eggs and poultrymeat into a single “specialist poultry” category tells nobody much about anything.