WASHINGTON – In April, US broiler meat production totaled 2.97 billion lbs., a 2.3 percent decrease from April 2010, according to the June 15 Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook from the US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. Much of the decline can be attributed to 1 less slaughter day in April 2011.

Broiler meat production on a year-over-year basis increased in three of the first four months in 2011. Processors reported slaughtering 686 million broilers in April 2011, a decrease of 4 percent from the previous year. Partially offsetting this was an increase in the average liveweight at slaughter of those broilers to 5.76 lbs., up 1.4 percent from one year earlier.

There was also an increase in the average meat yield per bird to 4.33 lbs. -- a 1.8-percent increase from a year earlier. When combining the continued sluggishness of the domestic economy and forecast higher prices for both corn and soybean meal, the broiler meat production estimates for fourth-quarter 2011 and for 2012 were revised downward from the previous month’s estimate.

For the fourth-quarter 2011, the meat production estimate was lowered by 25 million lbs. to 9.4 billion lbs. The estimate for first-quarter 2012 was also lowered by 25 million lbs. to 9.36 billion lbs., and the total for 2012 was reduced by 100 million lbs. to 38.0 billion lbs.

The number of broiler chicks being placed for growout continues to be only slightly higher than the previous year. Over the last five weeks (May 7 to June 4), the average number of chicks placed per week was 173 million, up only 0.6 percent from the same period in 2010. The slow growth in chick placements – combined with ongoing reductions in the number of eggs placed in incubators, down 1.8 percent over the last five weeks – is expected to translate into slightly lower broiler meat production in third-quarter 2011.

For the third-quarter 2011, the broiler meat production forecast is 9.43 billion lbs., down less than 1 percent from the previous year.

In recent months, prices for some broiler products have been moving in different directions. Prices of boneless/skinless (B/S) breast meat in the Northeast market, at $1.31 per lb., were also lower, falling 21 percent from May 2010. However, prices have risen for a number of leg meat products. Prices for leg quarters averaged 49.6 cents per lb. in May, up 30 percent from a year earlier. Boneless/skinless thigh meat prices in May also were higher than the previous year, climbing 43 percent to $1.35 per lb.

The May price for B/S thigh meat was 3.7 cents per lb. higher than for B/S breast meat. This is a significant change from 2010, when B/S breast meat averaged $1.65 per lb., 71 cents per lb. higher than B/S thigh meat, which averaged $0.94 per lb.