The average U.S. broiler company returned to profitability in January 2009 and profits strengthened in February and March, said Dana Weatherford, vice president, Agri Stats.

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Dana Weatherford

Profits were hard to come by for broiler companies in the second half of 2008, Weatherford reported at USPOULTRY's Processor Workshop in Atlanta. The average company lost nearly $0.05 per pound in the second half of 2008, according to Agri Stats data.

Performance in the first three months of 2009 has seen marked improvement with Weatherford reporting "bottom line profits" for the average broiler company of $0.0078, $0.0148 and $0.0389 per pound in January, February and March 2009, respectively.

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Weatherford said that with the reduction in the number of breeder pullets being placed it appeared that the industry's cutback in chick placements would continue below year before levels through 2009.

If broiler meat prices get a seasonal bump this summer, he said he expected broiler firms to remain profitable for the rest of the year.

If grain prices don’t jump up again and if U.S. chicken exports continue at a relatively strong pace, he said that 2010 could be a very good year for U.S. broiler companies.