U.S. broiler meat production is forecast at 9.05 billion pounds for the fourth quarter of 2012, 2 percent higher than 2011 numbers and slightly above previous estimates, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's latest report.  

The fourth-quarter production increase is expected to be driven by a higher number of birds slaughtered, since average live weights are not expected to be much different from 2011. Over the last several weeks, preliminary data have shown a higher overall number of broilers slaughtered. The estimate for production in first-quarter 2013 was also increased, by 30 million pounds to 9 billion pounds, but is still 1 percent lower than in first-quarter 2012. 

Broiler meat production in the third quarter of 2012 was 9.37 billion pounds, down 2 percent from the same period in 2011. The decrease was the result of a 1.9-percent decline in the number of birds slaughtered, to 2.15 billion, according to the USDA. This was slightly offset by a fractional increase of 0.1 percent in the average live weight at slaughter to 5.82 pounds, compared with the third quarter 2011.  

Broiler meat production in 2013 is forecast at 36.4 billion pounds, a decrease of 1 percent from 2012, but a slight increase from October's forecast. In 2013, the decline in broiler meat production is expected to come mainly from fewer birds being slaughtered, as the birds’ weights are expected to be close to or slightly higher than in 2012. Broiler integrators are expected to have a slight contraction in production due to the combination of continued high prices for corn and soybean meal and expected relatively modest growth in broiler prices.  

The most recent weekly broiler hatchery report indicates a strong divide between the number of chicks recently placed for growout and the level of chicks that may be available through the end of 2012. Over the last five weeks (October 6 through November 3), the number of chicks placed for growout averaged 154.4 million, 2 percent higher than in the same period in 2011. Over the last several months this five-week moving average has changed from being significantly lower than in 2011 to becoming higher. However, according to the USDA, recent changes in the number of eggs placed in incubators point to a future trend of chick placements being lower than year-earlier levels. Over the last five weeks, the number of eggs placed in incubators was 1 percent below the same period in 2011.

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