Combined broiler production for the 2011 second, third, and fourth quarters is expected to total 28.220 billion pounds, ready-to-cook weight, essentially unchanged from the previous year, despite that broiler production in the first quarter of 2011 is estimated to have increased 5.4 percent over January-March 2010, according to the “Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook” report released this week from USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS).  ERS said that broiler producers are adjusting production in reaction to sharp feed cost increases.

ERS expects improved prices for broilers in the first-quarter 2011. USDA’s 12-city wholesale price for whole broilers averaged 77.9 cents per pound, down 5.3 percent from the previous year.  Although the first quarter price was down from the previous year, prices for whole birds have started moving higher with the March price averaging 82 cents per pound, ERS said.  Overall March prices in the Northeast region, compared with the previous year, averaged lower for breast meat products and higher for leg meat products. The March price for boneless-skinless breasts was $1.32 cents per pound, down 9 percent from the previous year.

The March price for boneless-skinless thighs was $1.16 cents per pound, an increase of 23 percent from March 2010, and for that same period, prices for whole thighs rose by 32 percent. Prices for many broiler products are expected to strengthen over the next several months because of several factors, the report noted.  However, general economic conditions, which are less than robust, may act to dampen the expected gain in broiler prices, ERS added. While U.S. economic conditions appear to be gradually improving, unemployment rates are expected to remain relatively high in 2011.

Commercial hog production this year is expected by ERS to be 22.6 billion pounds, slightly higher than last year. Second-quarter production is expected to come in at 5.35 billion pounds, almost 1 percent above the same period last year. Live equivalent prices of 51-52 percent lean hogs are expected to be $62-$65 per hundredweight this year, more than 15 percent above 2010 prices. For the second quarter, the expected price of $67-$69 per hundredweight is more than 14 percent above the same period last year.

In its outlook for beef, ERS reported that a beginning herd expansion in 2013 will occur only if sufficient heifers are retained during 2011 to be bred in 2011 or 2012 and counted as heifers expected to calve or as cows in the January 1, 2013 inventory report.  Prospects for the expected expansion of heifer inventory depend on adequate pasture and range conditions during 2011. The continued dryness in the southern tier of states and scattered additional areas–home to more than a third of the beef cow inventory–will likely dampen expansion plans in those affected areas, the report concluded.