WASHINGTON – Broiler-meat production during the fourth quarter of 2009 is forecast at 8.85 billion lbs., down fractionally from a year earlier, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s most recent Livestock, Dairy, & Poultry Outlook from the Economic Research Service. The number of broiler eggs being set in incubators during fourth-quarter 2009 and the number of chicks being placed for growout has moved closer to the level seen in fourth-quarter 2008.

During 2010, however, the number of chicks being placed for growout is expected to reach or slightly exceed the previous year’s level. Combined with a small increase in the average weights, this is expected to push broiler-meat production to 35.9 billion lbs., 1% higher than in 2009. The production increase is expected to be restrained by both continuing uncertainties in the domestic economy.

Broiler-meat production in November 2009 was 2.77 billion lbs., up 4% from a year earlier, compared with declines on a year-over-year basis for the previous seven consecutive months. In November, the number of birds slaughtered was 2.2% higher than the previous year; this increase was compounded by a small increase (1%) in the average liveweight for birds at slaughter to 5.67 lbs.

Broiler-meat production in December is expected to slightly increase due chiefly to higher average weights at slaughter, but there may also be a slight rise in the number of birds slaughtered compared with the previous year, the study relays.

At the end of November, broiler stocks totaled 642 million lbs., up 29 million lbs. from the end of October, but down 19% from the end of November 2008. Lower broiler-meat production in 2009 has resulted in broiler stocks on a year-over-year basis being lower through the first 11 months of 2009. Stocks of whole birds totaled 19 million lbs., a decrease of 6 million lbs. (24%) from the same time a year earlier. Stock levels for almost all broiler products were significantly lower than the previous year, the only exception being thigh meat.

Between the end of October and the end of November, stocks of most products increased with breast meat (up 16 million lbs.) accounting for a major portion of the increase. Broiler stocks are expected to total 640 million lbs. at the end of 2009, down 14% from the previous year. In 2010, ending stocks are expected to be higher due to a large decline in exports and a small increase in meat production.