The USDA is changing it’s forecasts for meat and poultry production. The changes were not major and USDA is still firmly in the pessimistic camp from an output standpoint for 2009. If the forecasts come true, 2009 will mark the first year since 1973 when the output of all four of the major species has fallen in the same year.

Some of the highlights from last week’s predictions are:

• 2008 production for all species is still expected to be larger than 2007 levels but the forecast 2008 increases shrunk slightly in December.

• 2008 chicken output is still expected to be 2.4 percent larger than last year, down from 2.8 per cent in the November report. Pork production this year is now forecast to be 6.8 percent larger, down from 7 percent in November. The expected increase in beef production fell from 1.4% in November to 1.0 per cent in December. The 2008 growth estimate for turkey fell from 5.2 percent to 4.9 percent.

• A forecast for the first actual reduction in chicken output since 1975. Per capita chicken consumption has fallen four times (’95, ’00, ’01 and ’07) during that time span due to production increases that did not keep pace with population and export growth. But this is the first time that production itself will fall — and egg sets and chick placements still suggest that USDA’s forecast 1.3 percent decline may be very optimistic.

• USDA expects the pork industry’s string of record production years to end. 2009 output is expected to fall by roughly 300 million pounds (1.3 per cent) to 23.1 billion - still the second highest total ever.