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February storms rattle US poultry production

Winter storms Uri and Viola caused major disruptions across the southern central US last month, with significant consequences to poultry production.

The storms, which included record-breaking cold temperatures, caused widespread power outages in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Oklahoma, and domestic and international transportation networks were also affected. In the poultry sector, hatching operations, chicken farming, and processing plants were all severely affected by the storms, with a lasting effect on broiler production.

Severe winter in the southern central US in February caused major disruptions to poultry production. Photo: Introspectivedsgn
Severe winter in the southern central US in February caused major disruptions to poultry production. Photo: Introspectivedsgn

Storm impact surfaces in data

According to the USDA’s monthly Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook published in mid-March, the impact of the storm has surfaced in both broiler slaughter data as well as hatchery data. For the week ending 20 February 2021 – the height of the storm – preliminary broiler slaughter data indicates a 43.9% year-on-year decrease in broiler processing volumes. In addition, eggs set and chick placement data indicates fewer birds available for slaughter, likely into April.

Weekly broiler slaughter under federal inspection (preliminary)

Source: USDA, Economic Research Service using data from USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service, and National Agricultural Statistics Service.
Source: USDA, Economic Research Service using data from USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service, and National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Lowering broiler meat production forecast

The report, therefore, estimated that broiler meat production would be 45,000 mt lower in the first half of this year. Turkey production was also affected by the “extreme winter weather in the third week of February,” said the USDA, lowering its forecast of production by 1% for the year. US meat business Sanderson Farms had activated its crisis management plan. The company euthanised 545,000 chicks at Texas hatcheries, including 100,000 in Waco, during the storm that forced it to close the Waco processing plant for 5 days, reported the Waco Tribune-Herald.