WASHINGTON – For the third-quarter 2010, US turkey-meat production totaled 1.4 billion lbs., down slightly from the prior year, according to he Nov. 19 Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook from the Economic Research Service, US Dept. of Agriculture. This small production decline was the result of a small drop in the average live weight of turkeys at slaughter to 28.3 lbs. (down 0.4%) and the number of birds slaughtered being fractionally smaller than the previous year.

Regarding the fourth quarter 2010, turkey-meat production is forecast at 1.45 billion lbs., a relatively small gain in production from the previous year. This would be a switch, as turkey-meat production has fallen on a year-over-year basis for the last seven consecutive quarters.

With lower turkey-meat production throughout 2009 and in the first three quarters of 2010, stocks of turkey products (whole birds and parts) have been well below their year-earlier levels throughout 2010. At the end of September, overall turkey cold-storage holdings were 470 million lbs., down 23% from the previous year. The decline in cold-storage holdings of all turkey products was almost equally divided between whole turkey and turkey product stocks.

At the end of September, whole-bird stocks totaled 284 million lbs., down 21% from the previous year, and stocks of turkey products were down 26% to 186 million lbs. With production expected to be up only fractionally in fourth-quarter 2010, turkey cold-storage holdings at the end of 2010 are expected to total 210 million lbs., the lowest year-ending stocks level since 2005.

There has been considerable upward pressure on turkey prices, since there was lower turkey-meat production over the first three quarters of 2010 and much lower stocks of whole birds. In third-quarter 2010, prices for whole turkeys at the wholesale level averaged $0.98 per lb., up 14 cents per lb. from the second quarter and 25% higher than the previous year. Whole-turkey prices are expected to average $1.01-$1.05 per lb. in fourth-quarter 2010, around 25% higher than a year earlier.