The broiler industry began in the late 1920’s and grew steadily, getting a big boost from wartime demand in the 1940’s. By the 1950’s, however, the industry was in a slump and little was being done to build consumer demand for its products. The wholesale price of broilers dropped to twenty-two cents per pound in 1954.” The National Chicken Council (NCC) was first established in 1954 in Richmond, Virginia, as the National Broiler Council (NBC). Headquarters moved to the nation’s capital in 1965 and the new name, National Chicken Council, was adopted in 1999, to better describe the industry and its products.
Jesse Jewell of Gainesville, Georgia, was the first president (a position now called chairman). Frank Frazier of Richmond, Virginia, an experienced poultry association executive, was the first administrative director and later president. The headquarters was in Richmond. From the outset, NBC represented all segments of the industry, and decision-making was shared by producers, hatcheries, feed companies, and processors. Each member company was assessed dues based on its production.
NBC moved quickly to launch national promotion programs. One of the first was the Western Ranch Dinner, a recipe featuring baked frying chicken, biscuits, gravy, and broiled peaches. The campaign was run in conjunction with the California Cling Peach Advisory Board, Pet Milk, and Bisquick and supported by national advertising on TV and in magazines. The promotion was a hit and paved the way for numerous succeeding campaigns. The practice of partnering with brand-name companion products has continued to this day in programs such as National Chicken Month.
The 1950’s and 1960’s saw a relentless focus on marketing support, with campaign themes such as “Chicken: The Food of the Future” and “Chicken Is a Wise Buy.” More than forty years later, many of the themes sound very contemporary: “Chicken, the high- protein, low-calorie meat” was used in 1960 and could be used just as well today. Many other agricultural products were (and still are) sheltered from open competition by subsidies, import restrictions, or marketing orders.
In 1962, NBC studied the idea of a federal marketing order with producer quotas, but most industry leaders opposed any type of federal intervention, and the idea was rejected. The industry today remains free of domestic subsidies. Federal inspection for wholesomeness and correct labeling became mandatory in 1959. In the same year, NBC created a government liaison committee to keep the industry abreast of developments in Washington that could affect its marketing and sales structure.
In 1965, the headquarters was moved to Washington, D.C., to facilitate this new focus. George Watts, a Capitol Hill staffer, became president in 1973. Soon after venturing into federal relations, NBC had a battle on its hands when the Johnson Administration asked Congress to shift the cost of federal inspection to the private sector. This attempt was successfully beaten back. Later, NBC helped the industry get out from under wage and price controls imposed by the Nixon Administration. The Council dealt with the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration as well as Congress on a wide range of issues.
Vast increases in the federal regulation of the private sector and the creation of agencies such as EPA and OSHA during the 1960’s and 1970’s led to an even great focus on public affairs. On the consumer side, NBC took over the National Chicken Cooking Contest beginning in 1972. The grand prize was $10,000, which eventually grew to $25,000. Beginning in 2005, the grand prize was raised to $100,000. A vigorous program of working with the nation’s food press through special events, seminars, and the regular issuance of stories, recipes, and photographs began in the early days of the Council and continues today. As the term “broiler” fell into general disuse, the name of the organization itself was changed to National Chicken Council as of 1999.
As brand names came to dominate the market, commodity advertising by the Council was replaced by advertising sponsored by the companies. NCC continues to promote chicken in general, however, through its media outreach program, National Chicken Month, and the Web site www.eatchicken.com. These programs are supported and co-sponsored by the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association.
As of 2013, NCC represents companies that account for approximately 95 percent of broiler chicken production in the United States. At meetings and events at all levels, NCC continues to provide a forum in which industry members can share ideas and work towards solutions to common problems. NCC continues to earn its reputation as the unified voice of the chicken industry.