Production of broiler chickens, the kind most familiar to consumers, is rising again this year and will continue moving up in 1987, according to Agriculture Department economists.
Last year, a record 4.5 billion broilers were produced, a 5 percent increase from 1984. The department's Economic Research Service says production this summer is up about 4 percent from a year ago. In the fourth quarter, output might be up 6 percent from the year-earlier level.The broiler surge, despite this summer's drought and heat wave in the Southeast, where much of the industry is located, is expected to continue 7 percent above year-earlier production levels at least through the first quarter of 1987.
Production has been goaded upward by some of the best prospects the broiler industry has seen in years, according to USDA economist Allen Baker. Feed costs are lower and will edge down further as reduced federal price supports take hold with the advent of this fall's crop production.
"The midyear report that pork producers were not expanding production, and the heat and resulting slower weight gains, helped boost prices early in the third quarter (July-September)," Mr. Baker said.
So, with less red meat to buy, consumers have turned to less-expensive poultry. And for most shoppers, particularly in the summer months, that means broilers, although roastingchickens and turkeys also benefited from the demand. A rise in chicken popularity at fast-food outlets has been a factor.
Although there is still September to go, Mr. Baker's analysis shows wholesale broiler prices in the third quarter might average 69 cents to 73 cents a pound, up from 51 cents at major city markets a year ago.
Broiler prices are expected to decline this fall as pork supplies increase seasonally, but at 55 cents to 59 cents a pound broilers still would be higher than the fourth quarter average of 50 cents a pound last fall.
"Declines in red meat production and higher prices in early 1987 than in early 1986, especially in cheaper cuts and hamburger, will likely strengthen broiler prices," Mr. Baker said. "However, the expected 7 percent rise in output will likely moderate some of the price gains, and prices may average 51 cents to 55 cents a pound, up from 50 cents in (first quarter) 1986."
Mr. Baker sees egg production in the second half rising about 2 percent
from year-ago levels, and prices have been strengthened by concerns over heat losses. New York wholesale prices of Grade A large eggs may average 73 cents to 77 cents a dozen in the third quarter, up from 68 cents a year ago.
But fourth quarter wholesale egg prices are expected to edge down because of larger production and may average in the mid-60-cent range, compared with 74 cents a year earlier, he said.