Turkey meat production over the first 8 months of 2009 has totaled 3.8 billion pounds, down 9.5 percent from the same period in 2008. Even with this strong decrease in turkey meat production, whole turkey prices have been lower than the previous year throughout first 9 months of 2009. The price for whole hen turkeys (8-16 lbs in the Eastern market) averaged 81.4 cents per pound in third-quarter 2009, 15 cents less than the previous year (down 16 percent). The decrease in whole bird prices has come about even as the amount of whole birds in cold storage has been moving much closer to year-earlier levels. The wholesale price for Eastern market whole hens in fourth-quarter 2009 is expected to average 81 to 85 cents per pound, down from 87 cents per pound a year earlier. While the prices for most turkey parts have been lower than the previous year, prices for turkey wings have been just the opposite.

In August, prices for full-cut wings were 54 cents per pound, up 27 percent from a year earlier. Thus for broilers and turkeys, wing products have been about the only parts with higher prices than the previous year.

Turkey meat production in August was 463 million pounds, down 8.7 percent from a year earlier. The number of turkeys slaughtered was down 9.5 percent to 20.5 million, and the average live weight at slaughter was 28.2 pounds, up marginally from a year earlier. The production estimate for fourth-quarter 2009 is 1.5 billion pounds, down 5.2 percent from fourth-quarter 2008.

At the end of August, cold storage holdings of turkey products totaled 643 million pounds, only 2.1 percent higher than the previous year. The increase was due to a 16-percent increase in holdings of whole turkeys. On a year-over-year basis, the weight of whole turkeys in cold storage has been higher than a year earlier during the first 8 months of 2009. However, the gap between whole bird cold storage holdings in 2009 and a year earlier has narrowed considerably as the year has progressed. At the beginning of 2009, whole bird stocks were 98 percent higher than the previous year. Stocks of turkey parts at the end of August were 272 million pounds, down 12 percent from the end of August 2008. Third-quarter ending stocks are expected to total 635 million pounds. The estimate for fourth quarter 2009 ending stocks is 375 million pounds, down about 5 percent from the previous year. This reduction in stocks is expected to come from continued lower turkey production.