Chicken Production Rising Slowly

Many cattle and beef market analysts feel that beef’s main competitor at the retail level is chicken, not pork.  Thus, it pays to pay attention to what poultry companies, called integrators, are doing.

The statistics most used by market analysts are contained in the USDA’s monthly Chicken and Eggs report, which was released Tuesday.  Broiler hatchings and broiler eggs set into incubators are key because they tell about coming production.

US egg production totaled 8.52 billion in May, up 5% from last year, according to the report.  Production included 7.36 billion table eggs and 1.16 billion hatching eggs, of which 1.06 billion were broiler-type and 100 million were egg type.

The US laying flock continues to rebuild after last year’s outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza.  For reasons unknown to researchers, the disease hit the egg-laying flock the hardest.  Most broiler-type flocks were untouched.  Turkey producers also had their issues with the outbreak.




Broiler-type chicks hatched in May totaled 8.08 million, the USDA said, down 26,860, or 3.44%%, from 7.81 million a month earlier.  However, May’s total was 2,255, or 0.28%, below the 8.10 million of a year earlier.

However, not all broiler-type chicks are placed into growing facilities to be grown into birds destined for consumption.  Many are weeded out because of imperfections, sex or some other criteria.

The Denver-based Livestock Marketing Information Center graphs weekly numbers of chicks placed into growing facilities for the six weeks or so it takes to grow to slaughter weight.

It’s clear from the weekly data that integrators are keeping the pressure on competing meats like beef by continuing their policies of advancing production over the 2010-2014 average.  But it’s also clear that they aren’t pushing the envelope as hard this year as in years past when a 2% annual increase was almost a given.




While weekly broiler chicks placed and broiler slaughter are running in line with last year, or even the previous five-year average, broiler production is up.  Year-to-date production totals 22.5 billion pounds, up 700 million, or 3.21% from 21.8 billion in the same period last year.  It also is up 2.1 billion, or 10.3%, from the 2010-2014 average of 20.4 billion.

So, if chicken production is up on steady placements and slaughter, weights must be higher.  This is confirmed by April USDA data which said, “Young chickens slaughtered during April 2016 averaged 6.19 pounds per bird, up 1% from April 2015.  The average live weight of mature chickens was 5.82 pounds per bird, up 1% from a year ago.”




Cash cattle markets Wednesday were $5 per cwt lower than last week at mostly $116.  Tuesday, a few traded to $117, but none were reported at this level on Wednesday.  No trades were reported in dressed markets.

Cash cattle markets last week were $7 per cwt lower at $121 live.  Dressed trades were at $197, down $9 to $10.

The USDA’s choice cutout Wednesday was $1.07 per cwt lower at $217.08, while select was up $0.14 at $198.35.  The choice/select spread narrowed to $18.73 from $19.94 with 113 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.

The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Tuesday was $141.61 per cwt, down $0.52.  This compares with the Aug settlement Wednesday of $140.17, up $0.90.