WASHINGTON – In October, US broiler meat production totaled 3.18 billion lbs., up 3.6% from the previous year, according to the US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service.

For the first 10 months of 2010, broiler-meat production has increased on a year-over-year basis in eight of those months. The total for the January-through-October 2010 period was 30.6 billion lbs., 2.9% higher than in the same period a year earlier. In October, the number of birds slaughtered was down slightly from the previous year to 723 million due to one less slaughter day. However, the lower number of birds slaughtered was offset by a strong increase in the average live weight of birds at slaughter, up 3.5% to 5.87 lbs.

The strong increase in average broiler weights at slaughter was expected to continue in November and December, along with a higher number of birds being slaughtered. The estimate for fourth-quarter 2010 broiler meat production was increased by 100 million lbs. to 9.3 billion lbs., 5.4% higher than one year earlier.

This will push the annual estimate for 2010 to 36.7 billion lbs. The meat production estimate for first-quarter 2011 was also increased, reaching 9.08 billion lbs., 50 million lbs. higher than the previous estimate.

With high corn prices forecast for the remainder of 2010 and for 2011, and with relatively weak prices for most broiler products, broiler integrators are expected to scale back production increases for 2011.

Cold-storage holdings of broiler products at the end of third-quarter 2010 were revised downward slightly to 678 million lbs. Even with the reduction, this is still 11% higher than a year earlier. With strong gains in broiler meat production expected in fourth-quarter 2010, the forecast for 2010 ending stocks was increased to 725 million lbs., a gain of 109 million lbs. from a year earlier (up 18%).

Broiler stocks are expected to remain above year-earlier levels through the first half of 2010, but to go below year-earlier levels in the second half of 2011, as smaller gains in production result in a drawdown in stocks and greater use.

The higher boiler production in fourth-quarter 2010 and rising cold storage holdings have put downward pressure on most broiler product prices. The largest declines have been for breast meat, but prices were lower in the fourth quarter for almost all broiler products. For fourth-quarter 2010, prices for whole birds are expected to average 80 to 81 cents per lb., up about 12% from a year earlier.