The U.S. broiler meat production estimate for the third quarter of 2012 was reduced by 50 million pounds to 9.3 billion pounds, down 2.5 percent from 2011 numbers, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's latest report.

Broiler meat production in July was 3.13 billion pounds, 3 percent higher than in 2011. The number of birds slaughtered in July was up 3 percent, to 723 million, but average live weight was down slightly, to 5.76 pounds. During August and September, the number of chicks placed for growout is expected to remain at or near 2011 levels, while higher average weights are also expected to continue. However, there are 2 fewer slaughter days in September compared with 2011.

The broiler meat production estimate for the fourth quarter of 2012 was lowered to 9 billion pounds, down 150 million pounds from the previous estimate. The reduction in fourth-quarter production stems chiefly from the impact of lower expected chick placements brought about by continued high grain prices, according to the USDA. Weekly heavy hen slaughter has been above year-earlier levels for much of August, and with pullets below 2011 in July, it is likely that broiler-type egg production will remain close to or below 2011 numbers. For the five-week period ending September 1, the National Agricultural Statistics Service estimated that an average of 162 million broiler chicks was placed weekly for growout. This is almost exactly the same number of chicks placed weekly in a similar period in 2011.

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In 2011, between the middle of August and the middle of October, the number of chicks placed for growout was much lower than in 2010, which resulted in fourth-quarter 2011 broiler meat production being 7 percent lower than 2010 numbers. In 2012, it is expected that the number of chicks placed for growout will be very similar to 2011. Offsetting the stability in hatchery numbers will be one more slaughter day in the fourth quarter, according to the USDA. Average weights in the fourth quarter are expected to be only slightly higher than in 2011. The new production estimate for 2012 is 36.8 billion pounds, 1.2 percent lower than 2011 numbers.

For more U.S. poultry information and statistics, see www.wattagnet.com/marketdata.html.