WASHINGTON – In 2012, US broiler meat production is expected to total 38.1 billion lbs., up 2 percent from 2011, with the expansion concentrated mostly in the second half of the year, according to the May 17 edition of the Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook from the US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. Broiler meat production gains are expected to come from more birds being slaughtered and continuing increases in average bird weights at slaughter.

Average bird weights, which rose rapidly at the end of 2010, have continued higher through first-quarter 2011 and are expected to continue rising through the rest of 2011 and into 2012. However, the year-to-year growth in bird weights is expected to be considerably lower in 2012 than in 2011.

The continued strengthening of the general economy, including a gradual decline in the unemployment rate, is one factor needed for expanded broiler meat production in 2012. A second factor likely to influence integrators to expand is the corn and soybean meal price forecast for 2011/2012. Feed prices are expected to continue at very high levels.

For first-quarter 2011, broiler meat production was reported at 9.3 billion lbs., up 6.4 percent from the same period in 2010. The number of broilers slaughtered rose 3 percent to 2.1 billion birds. Equally important to the increase was the 2.8-percent gain in the average weight of broilers at slaughter (5.79 lbs.).

The meat production estimate for second-quarter 2011 was reduced by 45 million lbs., as increases in weights in the later part of the first quarter were lower than expected. The broiler meat production forecast was also reduced slightly, due in part to the destruction of a number of growout barns by tornadoes in late April, especially in Alabama. The tornadoes also created short-term disruptions at a number of processing plants.

Over the last five weeks (April 9 through May 7), the number of chicks being placed for growout has averaged 1.3 percent higher than in the same period in 2010. In addition, the number of eggs placed in incubators has also been unchanged from the same period in 2010. These estimates point toward an expected increase in meat production in second-quarter 2011 that will come mostly from higher bird weights, with only a small increase in the number of birds grown.

Broiler exports in 2012 are expected to total 6.7 billion lbs., up 4.7 percent from the 2011 forecast, and are expected to be spread relatively evenly throughout the year. Broiler exports are expected to benefit from strong prices for beef and pork products as consumers look for the lowest priced proteins.

In first-quarter 2011, broiler exports totaled 1.53 billion lbs., 3 percent higher than in the same period in 2010. Much of the growth was from higher shipments to Asian countries such as Korea, Hong Kong, and Japan. While exports were higher to many Asian countries, smaller shipments to both Russia and China partially offset them.