The state of competing meats is an important factor for pork producers to watch as consumers can eat only so much meat. This year all arrows point to declining annual production for pork, beef and poultry.

While reductions in beef numbers take a while to see the effects, poultry has a much quicker turnaround and one that pork aligns more closely with as a substitute product. Poultry traditionally has followed trend of higher production year-over-year. That is until late 2008, when cuts of 1 percent to 2 percent started surfacing.

Now, USDA reported just this week that broiler-type eggs set in commercial hatcheries in 19 selected states dropped 9 percent in the week ending Jan. 31, from the same time a year ago. That's a huge decline for the poultry industry, and the largest in three months.

USDA found that the hatcheries surveyed set 199 million eggs during the last week of January. That's the biggest drop since the week of Nov. 8, 2008. It's a reflection of consumers' shifting buying their habits, and a decline in restaurant dining.

Broiler growers placed 167 million chicks for meat production in the latest week, which is down 5 percent from the same week in 2008.

Cumulative placements from Dec. 28, 2008, through Jan. 31, 2009 were 838 million, down 6 percent from the previous year's levels.
 
That means poultry prices will likely rise, which could eventually send more shoppers over to the pork side of the meat case.