WASHINGTON – In July, US turkey meat production totaled 448 million lbs., down 4 percent from July 2010, which, in turn, was down 4 percent from July 2009, according to the Sept. 16 Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook from the US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. The decrease was chiefly due to the fact that July 2011 had 1 less slaughter day than July 2010. The reduced number of slaughter days led to a lower number of turkeys slaughtered, but average weights were actually up slightly.

Turkeys slaughtered in July totaled 19.4 million, a decrease of more than 5 percent from the previous year. The average live weight at slaughter was 29.1 lbs., up 1.8 percent from the previous year.

July marked the first monthly decline in US turkey meat production in 2011. During the first seven months of the year, turkey meat production was 4.1 percent higher versus the same period in 2010. Forecasts for the third and fourth quarters of 2011 are 1.42 and 1.49 billion lbs., respectively. The forecast for the third quarter is slightly higher than the previous year as higher average weights are expected to counterbalance any reductions in the number of birds slaughtered, and production in fourth-quarter 2011 is expected to be down over 2 percent from the previous year, due to a lower number of birds slaughtered. T

The estimate for 2012 turkey meat production is 5.7 billion lbs., a decline of slightly less than 1 percent from production in 2011.The reduction is expected to arise from a lower number of poults placed for growout as higher grain prices and a weak domestic economy put downward pressure on production, although there may some increases in the later part of 2012.

Between September 2009 and May 2011 -- 21 consecutive months, cold-storage holdings of turkey products were lower on a year-over-year basis. This changed in June 2011, when cold-storage holdings were up slightly, and even with a decline in turkey meat production, cold-storage holdings in July rose to 525 million lbs., 5 percent higher than the previous year. At the end of July, cold-storage holdings of whole turkeys were 288 million lbs., still down 1 percent from the previous year.

The lower cold-storage holdings for whole birds are the result of fewer whole toms in cold storage (151 million lbs., down 7 percent) as holdings for whole hens totaled 137 million lbs., up 7 percent from the previous year. At the end of July, holdings of turkey parts totaled 237 million lbs., 12 percent higher than a year earlier. While the amount of whole birds and breast meat was down slightly from the previous year, cold-storage holdings of other turkey products were all significantly higher, even with a strong export market.

Total cold-storage holdings are expected to fall to 485 million lbs. by the end of third-quarter 2011, 2 percent higher than the previous year. By the end of 2011 cold-storage holdings of whole turkeys and turkey parts are forecast at 200 million lbs., up about 4 percent from the very low ending stocks of 2010.