Broiler meat production down in June

by Bryan Salvage
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WASHINGTON — Broiler meat production in June totaled 3 billion lbs., down 1% from the previous year, according to the most recent Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook from U.S.D.A.’s Economic Research Service. This decline was primarily due to one more slaughter day in June 2009 than in June last year.

Production declines in June left total production for second-quarter 2009 at 8.9 billion lbs., 5.3% below second-quarter 2008. This represents the third-consecutive quarter of strong year-over-year declines in broiler meat production. In the first half of 2009, broiler meat production was 17.5 billion lbs., down 5.8% from a year earlier.

For the first half of 2009, the number of broilers slaughtered was 4.2 billion, a 6.2% decline from the same period in 2008. The average broiler liveweight at slaughter during the first six months of 2009 was 5.56 lbs., down fractionally from the first half of 2008. The number of broilers slaughtered is expected to remain below the previous year through third-quarter 2009, but then to become slightly higher on a year-over-year basis during the fourth quarter.

During the second half of 2009, average bird liveweight at slaughter is expected to remain similar to the previous year. The number of chicks being placed weekly for growout has averaged approximately 168 million over the last five weeks (July 11 to Aug. 8). This is down 2.9% from the same weekly period in 2008. Weekly chick placements have been below a year earlier for over a year now, but over the last several weeks the number of chicks placed for growout has been much closer to the previous year.

With only a small decline in production expected during the second half of 2009 and decreased exports, the forecasts for ending stocks for the third and fourth quarters of 2009 were increased to 650 million lbs. at the end of the third quarter and 660 million at the end of the fourth. The estimates for ending stocks in the first two quarters of 2010 were also increased.

Broiler product wholesale prices have fluctuated wildly so far in 2009. Broiler leg quarter prices have probably shown the most change, beginning at approximately 35 cents per pound in January, which was 17% below the previous year. But with lower production and a strong export market, prices for leg quarters rose to over 50 cents per pound in June, despite weak domestic demand. However, starting in July prices began moving downward, with weekly prices in early August falling to around 38 to 39 cents per pound.

Prices for boneless/skinless breast meat and boneless/skinless thigh meat started 2009 at relatively low levels and then gradually strengthened over the first six months of 2009. Since June, prices for both these products have fallen considerably. A weakening in both boneless/skinless breast and thigh-meat prices is assumed to be the result of a slight increase in broiler meat production in the second quarter compared with first-quarter 2009 and lower demand, especially through restaurants.

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