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US Poultry Outlook – December 2011

16 December 2011, at 12:00am

Sharply lower broiler chick placements and slower growth in bird weights have lowered the fourth-quarter 2011 broiler meat production estimate by 25 million pounds to nine billion pounds and resulted in decreased estimates for the first and second quarters of 2012, according to the latest <em>Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook</em> from the USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS).

Summary

Pork/Hogs: October pork exports were more than 42 per cent greater than a year ago, propelled primarily by very strong Asian demand, i.e. Japan, China and South Korea. Strong export growth is expected to continue through the fourth quarter, before tailing off in 2012. Total US pork exports are expected to be 5.1 billion pounds, both this year, and in 2012.

Beef/Cattle: Disproportionally large cow slaughter has kept average dressed weights lower during most of 2011 than if steers had constituted half or more of beef slaughter, as they typically do. Packer margins and high feed and feeder cattle prices are exerting downward pressure on fed cattle prices.

Beef/Cattle Trade: US beef exports are expected to increase by 21 per cent in 2011. Although US domestic beef supplies will be five per cent lower in 2012, exports should remain strong and stay about even with levels exported this year. As tight global beef supplies will continue into next year, US beef imports are expected to increase only moderately into 2012.

Poultry: Sharply lower broiler chick placements and slower growth in bird weights have lowered the fourth-quarter 2011 broiler meat production estimate by 25 million pounds to 9.0 billion pounds and resulted in decreased estimates for the first and second quarters of 2012. The lower production is expected to gradually lower stocks. Turkey production was basically unchanged in October as slightly higher bird numbers were offset by lower bird weights. Cold storage holdings for whole turkeys continued below those of a year earlier, putting upward pressure on prices.

Poultry Trade: Broiler and turkey shipments rose in October. Broiler exports totalled 689.7 million pounds, a 2.5 per cent increase from a year ago. Turkey exports totalled 59.2 million pounds, an increase of 20.7- per cent from October 2010.

Sheep/Lamb: The sheep industry, buoyed by strong prices and an industry policy to grow the inventory, may be poised to see its first inventory increase since 2006. Consistently high Choice Slaughter lamb prices at San Angelo coupled with reductions in production and live trade may be signaling increased retention.

Dairy: An improved feed price outlook is balanced by lower milk prices in 2012. Production in 2012 is forecast to rise slightly based on higher milk output per cow. Exports are likely to decline next year compared with 2011, contributing further to the lower milk price outlook.

Poultry

Broiler Meat Production in October Falls by Three Per Cent

Broiler meat production, which has fallen in three of the last four months, totalled 3.1 billion pounds in October, down three per cent from the previous year. Total broiler meat production during the first 10 months of 2011 was 31.4 billion pounds, 2.6 per cent higher than in the same period a year earlier. In October, the number of birds slaughtered fell to 700 million, down 3.2 per cent from the previous year, as integrators have been reducing the number of chicks placed for grow-out over the last several months. The lower number of birds slaughtered was partially offset by an increase in the average live weight of birds at slaughter, up fractionally to 5.94 pounds. Average broiler weights at slaughter are expected to continue higher in November and December but the rate of growth is expected to be much slower than it was over the first three quarters of 2011. With these expected changes, the estimate for fourth-quarter 2011 broiler meat production was decreased 25 million pounds to 8.98 billion pounds, 5.4 per cent below the previous year. This lowers the annual forecast for broiler meat production in 2011 to 37.3 billion pounds, an increase of one per cent from 2010. The broiler meat production projections for first- and second-quarter 2012 were each reduced by 100 three quarters of 2012. The revised forecasts in the first two quarters are down 5.3 and 4.2 per cent on a year-over-year basis, and the revised total broiler meat production for 2012 is now 36.5 billion pounds, down 2.1 per cent from 2011.

With relatively high corn prices forecast for the remainder of 2011 and into 2012, and with relatively weak prices for most breast meat products, broiler integrators are expected to scale back production through much of 2012. The number of chicks being placed for grow-out continues to be well below that of the previous year. Over the last five weeks, (5 November to 3 December), chick placements have averaged 154 million, down 6.6 per cent from the same period in 2010. Chick placements are expected to remain below year-earlier levels through the first half of 2012 and gradually pull even with and then exceed year-earlier levels in the second half of 2012.

Cold storage holdings of broiler products at the end of third-quarter 2011 were revised downward slightly to 639 million pounds, down six per cent from the previous year. With strong declines in broiler meat production expected in fourth-quarter 2011 and the first two quarters of 2012, ending stocks are expected to remain below year-earlier level through third-quarter 2012.

Broiler stocks at the end of October totalled 667 million pounds. This is an increase of around 28 million pounds from September but still about five per cent lower than the previous year. Stocks for most broiler products continue to be well below their year-earlier levels, with the exception of breast meat products. With lower year-over-year production expected and resulting lower stocks levels, broiler product prices are expected to get some upward pressure.

Prices for almost all broiler products were higher in November than the previous year. The lone exception was whole broilers, which are still considerably lower (down six per cent). Strong exports continue to place upward pressure on leg quarter prices (up 31 per cent) and other leg meat products such as boneless/skinless thighs (up 27 per cent) and whole thighs (up 44 per cent).

The forecast lower boiler production levels through the first half of 2012 are expected to gradually place upward price pressure on almost all broiler products. Whole bird prices are expected to be at $0.77-$0.78 per pound in fourth-quarter 2011, down three per cent from the previous year. However, prices in 2012 are expected to increase and be above year-earlier levels throughout the year.

October Turkey Production Even with Year Earlier Output

Turkey meat production in October totaled 525 million pounds, almost identical to production a year earlier. Although the total meat production was unchanged, the number of turkeys slaughtered rose by 0.5 per cent to 23.3 million. The increase in the number of birds slaughtered was offset by a slight decline in the average weight at slaughter from a year earlier to 28.3 pounds.

The fractional growth in turkey meat production in October contrasts to the strong expansion in production over the first half of 2011, when production was up 5.5 per cent compared with the same period in 2010. Over the first 10 months of 2011, turkey meat production has been 3.4 per cent higher. The second half of 2011 is expected to be a sharp contrast as production was only 0.5 per cent higher in the third quarter, and the fourth-quarter production forecast is 1.5 billion, only 0.3 per cent above the previous year.

With little growth in production and turkeys being taken out of storage in preparation for the Thanksgiving holiday, stocks of all turkey products fell by over 100 million pounds between the end of September and the end of October. Total turkey stocks were 407 million pounds at the end of October, down almost one per cent (0.7) from the previous year. This is a significant change from stocks at the end of September that were 7.6 per cent higher than the previous year.

Declines in stocks of whole birds accounted for 69 per cent of the decline in total turkey product stocks from September to October. Whole turkey stock levels always decline at this point in the year but stocks of whole birds fell by almost 71 million pounds, dropping the level for whole birds to 209 million pounds, almost 14 per cent lower than the previous year. Whole bird stocks at the end of September were only 2.6 per cent lower than the previous year. The decline in stocks of turkey products was much less (down 32 million pounds), and stocks of turkey products at the end of October were 199 million pounds, 18 per cent higher than in October 2010.

With the steep October decline, the estimate of ending stocks for 2011 was lowered to 205 million pounds, down 10 million pounds from the previous estimate but still seven per cent higher than a year earlier. The stock estimate for first-quarter 2012 was lowered by 15 million pounds to 325 million. However, the estimates for the second and third quarters were both increased to 500 million pounds. Anticipating a strong draw-down in stocks during in the holiday period in 2012, ending stocks for 2012 were reduced by 10 million pounds to 200 million.

During the first 11 months of 2011, the national price for whole hens has been higher than the previous year on a year-over-year basis. Prices for November were $1.14 per pound, up seven per cent from a year earlier and 38 per cent higher than the 2009 price. Prices are expected to decline seasonally in December but remain well above a year earlier, and the average for fourth-quarter 2011 is forecast at $1.10-$1.11 per pound, an increase of over six per cent from fourth-quarter 2010. Lower stocks of whole birds during most of 2011 have placed upward pressure on prices. Even with higher production, low stock levels at the start of 2012 are expected to pressure prices higher and whole hen turkey prices are expected to average $0.90-$0.94 per pound in first-quarter 2012, an increase of approximately two per cent from the previous year. However, production gains in 2012 are expected to gradually reduce prices, with hen prices in the second and third-quarters lower than the previous year.

Over the first 10 months of 2011, turkey poults placed for grow-out totalled 232 million, an increase of 0.9 per cent from the same period last year. The small increase would indicate that turkey production in the first half of 2012 is likely to be close to or slightly higher than in 2011. Given the strong wholesale prices for whole birds and most turkey products in the second half of 2011, turkey producers would normally be more heavily expanding production, but forecasts for continued high feed prices and a weak domestic economy through 2012 are likely contributing to producer resistance to expand.

Table Egg Production Continues Higher

The table egg laying flock in October was estimated at 282 million hens, 0.9 per cent above the previous year. Changes in the table egg flock numbers on a year-over-year basis have generally been lower in 2011. The flock size was higher in only three of the first 10 months, although table egg production has been higher throughout the year. The table egg flock is expected to remain higher than the previous year through the remainder of 2011 but only slightly. At the beginning of November, the estimate of the number of birds in the table egg flock was down but the decrease was less than one per cent. With expected higher feed prices and continuing economic uncertainties, egg producers are not expected to have much of an incentive to expand production in 2012.

Even with table egg production higher throughout the first 10 months of 2011, total production has been 5.5 billion dozen, only marginally higher (0.8 per cent) than the same period in 2010. In October, production was 562 million dozen, an increase of 1.9 per cent from the previous year. Fourth-quarter 2011 table egg production is estimated at 1.69 billion dozen, or about 1.1 per cent higher than the previous year. Even with the higher forecast, table egg prices are expected to remain strong through the end of the year. The fourth-quarter 2011 wholesale price for one dozen Grade A eggs in the New York market is forecast to average $1.27 to $1.28, up about 10 cents per dozen from third-quarter 2011 and about four per cent higher than a year earlier.

Hatching egg production has been lower than the previous year through the first 10 months of 2011. Over the first half of 2011, hatching egg production was down by relatively small amounts per month but since July, the declines have been much sharper, averaging around three per cent per month. Although there have been some declines in the number of egg-type eggs produced, the majority of the decline has come from a lower number of broiler-type eggs. The decrease in the production of broiler-type eggs is expected to continue through the first half of 2012 or until broiler integrators begin to expand production.

Total Egg Exports Fall in October

Monthly exports of eggs and egg products had been mostly higher in 2011 on a year-over-year basis through September but fell in October to the equivalent of 22.4 million dozen eggs, 13.3 per cent below a year earlier. The exports were down to Canada, Hong Kong and Germany and a number of smaller markets but were partially offset by higher shipments to Japan and Mexico. Exports of both shell eggs and egg products declined in October, with shipments of shell eggs at 11.5 million (down 12 per cent) and shipments of egg products at the equivalent of 10.9 million dozen (down 12 per cent). The October shipments were likely impacted by strengthening US prices. Domestic shell egg prices have continued to strengthen in November and into December. Over the first 10 months of 2011, total egg shipments were 232 million dozen, up 6.7 per cent from the same period in 2010.

Poultry Trade

Broiler shipments remain strong in October

October broiler shipments were up from a year ago. Broiler meat shipped in October 2011 totalled 689.7 million pounds, a 2.5 per cent increase from the same period in 2010, although last October shipments in 2010 were at the highest monthly volume recorded that year. There are several notable differences in trade flows between 2011 and 2010. Shipments to Russia in October 2010 totalled 211 million pounds, which accounted for 31.5 per cent of the US broiler exports for that month. In October 2011, Russia imported only 64.4 million pounds, a 69.5 per cent reduction. One reason for this big change is that imports were high in 2010 as the US re-entered the Russia’s market following resolution of trade restrictions.

Another market that made a considerable difference in 2011 October broiler shipments was Hong Kong. Broiler shipments to Hong Kong totalled 55.7 million pounds in October 2011, a 45 per cent increase from last October. In October 2010, shipments to Angola totalled only 14.4 million pounds. However, 12 months later, these shipments rose to 60.5 million pounds, a 320 per cent increase from a year ago. Secondary markets also imported more broiler meat in October 2011, offsetting lower shipments to Russia.

Turkey shipments rose in October

Turkey shipments totalled 59.2 million pounds in October, up 20.7 per cent from a year ago. Shipments to the largest US market, Mexico, totalled 31.4 million pounds, accounting for 53 per cent of total turkey exports. Exports to China, the second largest US turkey market, rose considerably in October, from 3.2 million pounds in October 2010 to 5.2 million pounds in October 2011. Sizable turkey shipments also went to the Philippines, for an increase of over one million pounds from a year earlier. Through October, turkey exports are up 23 per cent in 2011.

Further Reading

- You can view the full report by clicking here.

December 2011