WASHINGTON – For the fourth quarter of 2011, US broiler meat production is expected to total 8.93 billion lbs., down 50 million lbs. from the previous estimate, according to the Jan 19 Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook from the US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. This adjustment was made following production declines in October and November. Both an expected smaller number of broilers being slaughtered and falling average weights are behind the predicted decline.

In November, broiler meat production totaled 2.9 billion lbs., a decrease of 7.1 percent from November 2010. Broiler meat production has decreased on a year-over-year basis in each of the last three months. The number of broilers slaughtered in November was down 6.2 percent from November 2010. This decrease was compounded by a 1 percent decline in the average liveweight for birds at slaughter to 5.82 lbs.

Broiler meat production for December is expected to decrease due to fewer numbers of birds slaughtered at a lower average liveweight.

During the last several months, the outlook for broiler meat production in 2012 has changed due to changes in the number of chicks being placed for growout and average broiler weights at slaughter. Early in 2012, the five-week moving average showed the number of chicks being placed for growout was averaging 3.6 percent lower than the previous year. The decrease in the number of chicks being placed for growout from the same period a year earlier is now about half what it was in mid-November.

A less-drastic reduction in the number of chicks means possibly smaller declines in broiler meat production in the first half of 2012.

Broiler meat stocks at the end of November 2011 totaled 627 million lbs., down 40 million lbs. from the end of October and 15 percent lower than at the end of November 2010. Whole bird stocks at the end of November totaled 16 million lbs., 14 percent higher than the previous year, and stocks of breast-meat products totaled 146 million lbs., up 28 percent from the end of November 2010.

Stock levels for all other categories of broiler products were significantly lower than the previous year, with leg quarters, down 47 million lbs. or 39 percent from the previous year, accounting for a major portion of the decrease.

With continued declines in broiler meat production through the first three quarters of 2012 and expected strong exports, ending stocks in 2012 are expected to be below a year earlier during the first three quarters of the year.

In December, prices for boneless/skinless breast meat rose to $1.26 per lb., up 10 percent from December 2010.

In 10 of the first 11 months of 2011, prices for whole birds were lower. In December whole bird prices increased by almost 4 cents per lb. from November and were 2 percent higher than a year earlier.

Since August, wing prices have strongly increased, gaining more than $0.50 per lb.