WASHINGTON – For the third-quarter of 2011, the US broiler meat production estimate was increased by 25 million lbs. to 9.4 billion lbs., down 1 percent from the previous year, according the US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service.

Although the number of chicks being placed for growout is down significantly from a year earlier, average live bird weights at slaughter have continued to be much higher than during the same period in 2010, almost completely negating the downturn in the number of broilers going to slaughter. The broiler meat production estimate for the fourth quarter was lowered to 9.2 billion lbs., down 25 million lbs. from the previous estimate.

The reduction in fourth-quarter production is due largely to the impact of continued lower chick placement. However, in third-quarter 2011, live bird weight at slaughter is expected to be much closer to that of the previous year. The new production estimate for 2012 is 37.5 billion lbs., only a slight increase from the previous year. This downward revision in the 2012 production estimate was due to expected continued high grain prices, along with only minor improvements in the domestic economy.

Broiler meat production in July totaled 3.0 billion lbs., down 1.5 percent from one year earlier. This decline in production can be attributed chiefly to the fact that July 2011 had one fewer slaughter day than the previous year. The number of birds slaughtered in July was down 4.7 percent to 696 million. Most of the decrease in the number of birds slaughtered was offset by a 3-percent gain in average liveweight, to 5.76 pounds. During August and September, the number of chicks placed for growout is expected to remain well below the level of the previous year, while higher average weights are also expected to continue.

For the five-week period ending Sept. 10, the National Agricultural Statistics Service estimated that an average of 162 million broiler chicks were placed weekly for grow out. This is a 5 percent decrease from the similar period in 2010. Since the middle of June, the year-over-year declines in the number of chicks placed have grown from only slightly lower to sharply lower. This pattern of strong declines in chick placements for growout is expected to continue through the remainder of the third quarter and into the fourth.

After being unchanged in June, the quantity of broiler products in cold storage at the end of July rose by just under 10 million lbs. to 726 million lbs., 14percent higher than the previous year. Although the stock levels rose for a number of the reported categories, most the increase was in the basket category of unidentified products, which saw an increase of 22 million lbs. to 301 million lbs., or 41 percent of all broiler holdings in cold storage.

With slower growth in production in the third quarter, stock levels are expected to decline to 685 million by the end of the third quarter and are expected to be 700 million lbs. at the end of 2011.