WASHINGTON – For the first five months of 2011, US broiler meat production was 15.5 billion lbs., up 4.8 percent from the same period in 2010. The increase in 2011 is the result of a greater number of birds being slaughtered and higher average weights at slaughter, according to the July 18 Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook from the US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service.

Due to increased broiler meat production in May and the continuing higher average bird weights, the production estimate for second-quarter 2011 was raised to 9.4 billion lbs., 75 million lbs. higher than the previous estimate. However, starting in late May and continuing through the most recent data, the number of eggs placed in incubators and the number of chicks placed for growout has turned sharply lower than the previous year. Based on this trend, broiler meat production in third-quarter 2011 is expected to be below that of the previous year.

The declining year-over-year production is expected to continue in fourth-quarter 2011, and the fourth-quarter production estimate was lowered to 9.3 billion lbs., down 75 million lbs. from the earlier estimate. Production for all of 2011 is estimated at 38.4 billion lbs., unchanged from last month’s estimate.

Relatively higher grain prices and the sluggish economy are expected to influence broiler production through 2012. As a result, production in 2012 was reduced by 230 million lbs. to 37.8 billion lbs., up only 1.1 percent from the 2011 total.

Broiler meat production totaled 3.2 billion lbs., 7.1 percent higher than the previous year, in May 2010. The increase in meat production was due to a higher number of birds slaughtered in May, up 5.0 percent from the previous year, and higher average weights at slaughter. The average liveweight at slaughter in May was 5.81 lbs., 1.8 percent higher than the previous year.

Broiler meat production is expected to be up 2.2 percent in second-quarter 2011 compared with the previous year, with almost all of the growth coming from higher production of large birds. This production increase has generally had a depressing effect on wholesale prices.

Demand has been weak for boneless/skinless breast meat, with prices in the Northeast market averaging $1.25 per lb. in June, down 18 percent from the previous year.

At the end of May, broiler stocks totaled 719 million lbs., up 8.3 percent from one year earlier.

Totaling 157 million lbs., stocks of breast meat were up 36 percent from the previous year. During the first five months of 2011, stocks of breast meat increased by 21 million lbs., and this increase has been reflected in the falling wholesale price over the last several months.

At the end of May 2011, wing stocks totaled 66 million lbs., 72 percent higher than the previous year. However, since the beginning of 2011, wing stocks have declined by 1.9 million lbs., and wholesale prices for wings have generally been strengthening in the last month or two. Wing prices were around $0.88 per pound in June, down 24 percent from the previous year, but up 8 cents from the previous month.