WASHINGTON – Red meat and poultry production is forecast to decrease in 2022 to 106.6 billion lbs, the US Department of Agriculture said in its Livestock and Poultry Outlook report. Shayle Shagam, livestock analyst for the World Agricultural Outlook Board at USDA, presented the agency’s forecast for 2022 at the USDA’s Agricultural Outlook Forum held Feb. 24-25. Shagam said declines in red meat production will more than offset higher poultry production as challenges presented by the pandemic will continue to weigh on the sector.

Although the decline in production is only fractional, Shagam noted, it will be the first decline in total red meat and poultry production since 2014.

Commercial beef production for 2022 is forecast to fall by 2%, to 27.38 billion lbs. Heavier cattle weights will only partly offset lower slaughter numbers.

USDA expects the US cattle herd to decline further in 2022 as producers retained 3% fewer replacement heifers for the beef cow herd this year, and fewer numbers of beef heifers expected to calve during 2022. The total number of cattle on feed in US feedlots of all sizes on Jan. 1 was 14.7 million head, fractionally higher than 2021 while the number of cattle outside of feedlots on Jan. 1 was about 2.6% below a year ago.

The 5-Area steer price for 2022 is forecast to average $137.5 per cwt, $15 per cwt above 2021’s average price and the highest price since 2015.

“Cattle prices will likely be supported by increased demand by packers as the sector overcomes constraints on throughput and tighter supplies of steers and heifers in feedlots,” USDA said in its outlook report. “Feeder cattle prices will likely average higher during 2022 as feedlots bid for tighter cattle supplies. “

Hogs and pork

Commercial pork production for 2022 is forecast at 27.38 billion lbs, about 1% lower than 2021, when the US hog sector contracted for its second year as the industry continued to wrestle with the impacts and uncertainties resulting from COVID-19.

However, carcass weights are expected to increase, offsetting slightly the impacts of lower slaughter numbers.

National base 51%-52% lean hog prices, live equivalent, are forecast to average $65 per cwt for 2022, down from last year’s $67.29.

Sheep and lambs

Commercial lamb and mutton production is forecast to reach 136 million lbs, a decline of just over 1% from the previous year. In 2021, the lamb US sheep and lamb inventory declined for the sixth year, USDA said. The smaller lamb crop in 2021 suggests lower supplies for slaughter in the first part of 2022.

A smaller domestic inventory and continued firm demand are expected to support lamb prices in 2022. The National Choice/Prime slaughter lamb price is forecast at a record $226 per cwt, a 4% increase from 2021 average price of $216.92 per cwt.

Broiler chickens

For 2022, broiler meat production is forecast just over 1% higher to a record 45.49 billion lbs.

The problem of a lower-than-historical number of eggs hatching appears to be persisting, USDA said. However, producers appear to be attempting to compensate by increasing the laying flock.

“Now, the big question that’s on everybody’s mind is what happens to hatchability?” Shagam said. “You can add more and more eggs, but, currently, there’s a problem where we’re looking at the number of placements lagging the increases in egg sets.”

The National Composite wholesale broiler price is forecast to average a record $1.13 per pound in 2022, compared with an average of $1.02 in 2021. Prices through mid-February were well above 2021, but with increased production, prices are expected to decline through the year to below year-earlier levels in the fourth quarter.


Turkey production for 2022 is forecast to increase 1% to 5.62 billion lbs. Annual production has declined since 2018 and after an improvement in turkey price-feed margins, there are signs of a pending expansion in production.

“If we look at 2022, we’re expecting production to be up about 1% after four years of decline,” Shagam said. “Production in 2021 was 3% below a year earlier, and January production this year was down 1%, and stocks on Jan. 1 of all turkey meat was down 19%.   So, tight supplies, and that’s really being reflected in very strong prices. We saw prices were higher most of 2021, and currently, they’re averaging about 98 cents compared to about 83 cents a year ago.

“As a result, we’re seeing stronger margins, which should be supportive to continued expansion, and we’re getting mixed signals from the sector,” Shagam said. “There are some signs of expansion; the eggs in the incubators at the beginning of the year both in January and February, were above 2021 levels, and poult placements were up 5% from a year ago. So, we’re taking those as signs that the industry is beginning to expand, but there’s going to be a time delay in their ability to expand production rapidly, even with the higher returns on the higher margins that they’re likely seeing.”

With tight lower turkey production and tightening stocks, wholesale hen prices climbed during 2021 to peak at a record $1.44 per pound in mid-September. Although prices gradually moved lower in the remainder of 2021, prices for the first seven weeks of 2022 averaged $1.29 per pound, almost $0.21 higher than the comparable period in 2021. Although prices are expected to fall below 2021 during the second half of the year, the average National turkey hen price is forecast to average just under $1.26 per pound, compared to an average of $1.23 in 2021.


Total US egg production in 2022 is forecast to increase to 9.43 billion dozen, about 1% higher than 2021. Table egg production in 2022 is forecast a record 8.15 billion dozen, 1% above 2021, but below the 2019 record of 8.260 billion dozen.

The annual average egg price for 2022 is expected be above 2021 based on modest increases in supplies and continued strong demand for eggs, USDA said in its report. For 2022, New York wholesale egg prices are forecast to average just over $1.31 per dozen, compared to $1.19 for 2021.