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Analysis: Turkey production to reach near-record levels

Turkey weights heavier than during record year, but fewer birds are being slaughtered.

Urner Barry analyst Russ Whitman said 2008 still holds the record for the greatest annual turkey production ever. While 2016 came close, Whitman said it ultimately fell short by about 4%.

This year, he said a clearly defined trend in slaughter has emerged, and although production is not projected to exceed 2008, it is presently on course to achieve significant heights.

According to Whitman, the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ready-to-cook (RTC) turkey slaughter estimate for 2017 is 6.12 billion lb., just below the 2008 record of 6.2 billion lb. In 2008, Whitman explained that the RTC tally was accomplished by slaughtering  249 million head averaging 29.24 lb.

“Nine years later, the potential for total slaughter to reach record heights is very real, with the forecast falling shy of 2008 by about 1% -- a narrow margin by any standard,” he said. “However what distinguishes this year's slaughter trend from 2008 is the course it is taking to get there.”

In 2008, Whitman said it was head count rather than weight that propelled the total higher, while “this year, the near-record forecast will be fulfilled through heavier turkeys and fewer of them.”

He explained that, so far during 2017, an average of 4,093 turkeys are slaughtered weekly at an average weight of 31.95 lb. In 2008, year-to-date slaughter averaged  4,670 head  at 29.76 lb.

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