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Barn of turkeys Getty Images/Justin Sullivan

Whole turkey prices stay up, production down

Turkey ending stocks in cold storage below 2018 levels, suggesting pickup in utilization.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that wholesale whole-hen frozen turkey prices were remarkably stable throughout 2018 after their nearly two-year fall to prices last seen in 2010. This year, prices have stayed above last year’s levels. The latest price data, covering the week ending July 6, 2019, showed frozen whole hen prices at 87 cents/lb. after rising as high as 91 cents/lb. in the last week of June.

“Prices are still low relative to pre-2018 levels, but the upward price trend since the beginning of the year indicates a possible return to the seasonal price patterns once typical in the turkey market,” USDA economists Kim Ha and Alex Melton noted in the latest “Livestock, Dairy & Poultry Outlook.”

In 2019, turkey prices are expected to average 87.5 cents/lb., a 9% increase from 2018. In 2020, turkey prices are projected to average 90 cents/lb., 3% higher than in 2019.

While prices have been up, production this year has been lower. In May, turkey production totaled 492 million lb., a 3% decrease from May 2018. Hatchery report data for May was mixed, with a year-over-year decline of 1% in poults placed, an increase of less than a 0.5% in poults hatched and a 2% decrease in the number of eggs in incubators on June 1.

“Although production remains down year to date relative to the same period in 2018, turkey ending stocks in cold storage have fallen below 2018 levels, suggesting some pickup in utilization,” Ha and Melton reported.

Ending stocks at the end of May 2019 were 8% lower than in May 2018. USDA decreased turkey production for 2019 by 10 million lb. from last month’s forecast to 5.866 billion lb., less than 0.5% below 2018. For 2020, USDA expects turkey production to total 5.900 billion lb. If realized, USDA said production would be less then 1% higher than 2019.

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