U.S. broiler meat production in the fourth quarter of 2011 is expected to total 8.93 billion pounds, down 50 million pounds from the previous estimate, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Broiler meat production in November 2011 was 2.9 billion pounds, a decrease of 7.1 percent from 2010 numbers. The number of broilers slaughtered in November was down 6.2 percent from November 2010, and this decrease was compounded by a decline (1 percent) in the average liveweight for birds at slaughter (to 5.82 pounds). Broiler meat production in December 2011 is expected to show a decrease due to a reduced number of birds slaughtered at a lower average liveweight.

The outlook for broiler meat production in 2012 has changed due to sharp changes in the number of chicks being placed for growout and average broiler weights at slaughter. At the beginning of January, the five-week moving average (December 10, 2011 through January 7) showed that the number of chicks being placed for growout was averaging 3.6 percent lower than 2011 numbers. A less drastic reduction in the number of chicks points to possibly smaller declines in broiler meat production in the first half of 2012.