WASHINGTON – Broiler-meat production for the fourth-quarter 2010 is forecast at 9.2 billion lbs., 4.2% higher than one year earlier, according to the Nov. 19 Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook from the Economic Research Service, US Dept. of Agriculture. The higher production is expected to be driven by both an increase in the number of birds slaughtered and in average live weights.

During the past several weeks, preliminary slaughter numbers indicate almost all the gain in bird slaughter has come from heavier birds, which indicates higher average weights.

For third-quarter 2010, broiler-meat production was 9.48 billion lbs., 3.4% above the same period in 2009. This increase was the result of a 2.2% increase in the number of birds slaughtered and a 1% increase in live weights to 5.63 lbs.

Broiler-meat production in 2011 is forecast at 37.2 billion lbs., an increase of 1.5% over 2010. In 2011, broiler-production growth is expected to be negatively affected by higher prices for corn and soybean meal and only modest increases in broiler prices, which would reduce any incentive to expand production. Price increases are expected to be dampened by higher production and stocks as well as relatively high unemployment and a slowly expanding economy, holding back demand increases.

According to the most-recent weekly hatchery report, the number of chicks placed for growout averaged 5.2% higher than in the same period in 2010 over the last five weeks (Oct. 9 through Nov. 6). This moving average has rapidly grown over the last few months, as the average through the end of September was less than half the current rate. The continued expansion in the number of chicks placed for growout is expected to be impacted over the next several months by both high grain prices and falling prices for most broiler meat products.