U.S. turkey meat production during the first six months of 2011 was 2.9 billion pounds, 5.5% higher than in the same period in 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's latest report.

The increase in turkey meat production was due to a higher number of birds slaughtered, up 4.6%, along with an increase in live weights at slaughter. Over the first six months of 2011, live turkey weights averaged 30.1 pounds, up 1.1% from the same period in 2010.

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The forecast for turkey meat production in the second half of 2011 is 2.9 billion pounds, down slightly (less than 1%) from the same period in 2010, according to the USDA. The decrease is expected to come chiefly from a smaller number of birds slaughtered, as average live weights at slaughter are expected to continue slightly higher than those of the previous year. In spite of this, turkey stocks are expected to remain above their year-earlier levels through the end of 2011. At the end of the second quarter of 2011, whole birds stocks totaled 271 million pounds, down 3%, and stocks of breast meat were 72 million pounds, 8% lower than 2010 numbers.

Stocks of whole turkeys are still lower than 2010, and the number of birds slaughtered in the second half of 2011 is expected to be lower than 2010 numbers. Both these factors point to continued strength in prices for whole birds. Prices are expected to strengthen in the fourth quarter of 2011 to $1.06 to $1.12 per pound, slightly higher than 2010.