Broiler production in January is estimated at nearly 4 billion pounds, an increase of 6.5 percent year over year. Both increased slaughter (up 3.9 percent year over year) and heavier bird weights (up 2.6 percent) drove ready-to-cook production higher in January, according to USDA’s latest Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry report.

Preliminary weekly slaughter data indicates that slaughter and bird weights continued to be up year over year in February. Also, recent eggs set and chick placements averaged about 4 percent higher year over year, pointing to sustained ample supplies of birds available for marketing at least through April. These production indicators continue to support higher slaughter and production, which was the basis for increasing the first-quarter production forecast to 11.25 billion pounds, an increase of 6.6 percent (adjusted for slaughter days) relative to 2019.

As the industry faces record broiler production, record cold storage inventories, and historically low broiler prices, these market conditions raise questions about how long this projected rate of growth will continue. Beyond the first quarter, indicators for the broiler breeding flock do not imply any intentions by producers to slow growth down. The broiler layer flock reached 61 million birds on February 1, more than 3 percent higher than a year ago. Furthermore, in January, the industry placed more than 8.5 million pullets intended for U.S. hatchery supply flocks, more than 14 percent higher year over year. Based on expectations for a larger breeder flock, the forecast for second-quarter production was increased to 11.525 billion pounds, for third quarter to 11.800 billion pounds, and for fourth quarter to 11.500 billion pounds. In sum, the 2020 production forecast was revised up to 46.075 billion pounds, an increase of 5 percent over 2019 production.