U.S. broiler meat production for the first five months of 2012 was 15.4 billion pounds, down 1 percent from the same period in 2011, as a result of a smaller number of birds being slaughtered, according to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture report.

This drop was offset partially by higher average weights at slaughter. Over the January–May period, average broiler weights at slaughter were 5.83 pounds, 0.7 percent higher than in the same period in 2011.

With adverse weather conditions in many areas of the country impacting corn production, rising grain prices and the sluggish economy are expected to result in a less rapid recovery in broiler production in the second half of 2012 and only slight growth in 2013, according ot the USDA. The production estimate for fourth-quarter 2012 has been reduced by 50 million pounds. The estimate for 2013 broiler meat production has been reduced by 400 million pounds to 37.1 billion pounds, up only 0.6 percent from 2012. Most of the reduction is expected to come from reduced numbers of broilers being raised, as average weights are expected to be close to those in 2012.

During May, the number of birds in the broiler breeder flock was estimated at 52.9 million, down 5.3 percent from 2011 numbers. On a year-over-year basis, the size of the broiler breeder flock has been lower than the previous year since February 2011. With this reduction in the number of broiler breeder hens, the number of eggs placed in incubators and chicks hatched are expected to continue to be lower than in 2011, potentially reducing the amount of birds available for slaughter.

Broiler meat production is expected to be down 1.7 percent in the second quarter of 2012 compared with 2011 numbers, with almost all of the reduction coming from lower bird slaughter, according to the USDA. These production decreases are generally expected to have a positive impact on wholesale broiler parts prices. For the remainder of 2012, cold storage holdings of broiler products are expected to gradually increase. While broiler meat production on a year-over-year basis is expected to be slightly lower in the second half of 2012, the decline is expected to be partially offset by lower exports and a sluggish domestic economy. Broiler stocks are expected to slowly rise, ending the year at 650 million pounds.

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