U.S. turkey meat production is estimated at 6 billion pounds in 2012, up 3.2 percent from 2011 and 60 million pounds higher than the previous forecast, according to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture numbers.

The forecasts for turkey meat production in the first, second and fourth quarters of 2012 were all increased slightly. The 2012 increase in turkey meat production is expected to come chiefly from a higher number of birds slaughtered, as only a slight increase in average weights is expected. Over the first two months of 2012, turkey meat production totaled 943 million pounds, up 5 percent from the same period in 2011. During January and February, the number of turkeys slaughtered rose by 4.4 percent over the same period in 2011, and average live bird weights were 30.9 pounds, 0.6 percent higher.


At the end of February, cold storage holdings of turkey products totaled 350 million pounds, 21 percent higher than the same time in 2011. On a year-over-year basis, turkey stocks were lower than the previous year throughout 2010 and the first five months of 2011, but have been higher in eight of the last nine months. At the end of February there were increases in cold storage holdings for all of the turkey stocks categories.

Cold storage holdings of whole birds of 141 million pounds (40 percent of total turkey stocks) were 16 percent higher than in 2011. Stocks of turkey legs increased the most on a percentage basis, rising to 21 million pounds, 62 percent larger than 2011 numbers. Cold storage holdings of turkey meat are expected to remain higher than year-earlier quantities throughout 2012, even with relatively strong exports and higher domestic consumption, due to strong prices for many other competing meats.