“Chicken is one of most successful industries in agriculture,” Ennis told the students. Since 1900, the poultry industry has come a long way – increasing bird size, focusing more on genetics and nutrition, and diversifying product offerings.
Largely due to fast-food chicken chains like Chick-fil-A, KFC and Popeye’s, chicken consumption surpassed that of pork on a per-capita basis in 1985 and, in 1992, surpassed beef consumption, making chicken now the most consumed meat.
Through technology that enables healthier, more productive birds and the ability to bring products to market quicker than ever before, “[the industry has] revolutionized the way we eat chicken,” said Ennis.
Ennis emphasized that technology is key to feeding the world’s growing population. “Young people know more about technology than anyone,” he said. So, their knowledge and skills are critical to continued innovation in the poultry industry.
Over the next 10 years, 10,000 qualified poultry people will be needed in the industry. Yet, according to Ennis, the U.S. has just six poultry schools that graduate an average of 30 people per class per year. Therefore, the demand for young professionals in the industry is great; in fact, he believes that there is a 100 percent job placement rate for graduates with a poultry science degree – an unattainable statistic in many other industries. Ennis feels the three largest areas of demand for workers in the industry are currently poultry nutritionists, where young professionals are needed to fulfill jobs vacated by an older generation of people who are now retiring, as well as in feed mills and hatcheries. However, he noted that there are jobs in the poultry industry to fit nearly any interest: accountants, software developers to develop new equipment, poultry product development chefs and pest control, just to name a few.
“Opportunities are endless when it comes to this industry,” Ennis concluded.