Beef, Pork Production Rebounding

Weekly US federally inspected beef and pork production have rebounded from their COVID-induced weekly lows and remain above last year and their respective 2014-2018 averages, but it may not be making up the difference just yet.

It’s hard to tell what beef and pork production might have been at this point in the year without the coronavirus interruptions and disruptions.

However, a look at data from the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service from Friday showed that 2020 beef production remained 2.8% behind last year at 14.686 billion pounds while pork production was up by 1.4% at 15.521 billion.




After hitting this year’s weekly low production rate of 356 million pounds the first week of May, US weekly beef production rose to 388.9 million the next week and surpassed the 2019 weekly rate in the second week of June.  At that point, weekly production was 535.0 million pounds, versus 531.1 million in the same week a year earlier.

Weekly production rose above the 2014-2018 average of 488.2 million pounds the week before that with output of 518.9 million pounds.

It’s significant to point out that weekly beef production the last week of March, right before the Great Lockdown production crash that began the following week, beef production was pegged at 565.1 million pounds, up 71.7 million, or 14.5%, from 493.4 million the year before and up 10.424 million, or 22.6%, from the previous five-year average of 460.86 million.

Last week, beef production totaled 537.3 million pounds, up 11.4 million, or 2.17%, from 525.9 million a year earlier and up 56.58 million, or 11.8%, from the previous five-year average of 480.72 million.

There’s no way of knowing exactly what beef production would have been without the interruption, but it was on a path to push well above last year and the 2014-2018 average, an analyst said.




Like beef, pork production also took a hit in April amid a wave of sick employees and plant closures.  And, like beef, pork production came back from the brink of disaster and last week was back above last year and the 2014-2018 average.

However, unlike beef, weekly pork production may have returned to levels that are nearly what they would have been.  Some pork production was lost forever when some producers euthanized their slaughter-ready hogs because there was no room for them either at the packing plant or at the farm.

Such disposal of fed cattle was not reported.

Prior to the COVID disruptions to hog slaughter, weekly pork production was reported at a peak of 602.6 million pounds, up 65.8 million, or 12.3%, from 536.8 million a year before and up 127.04 million, or 26.7%, from the previous five-year average of 475.56 million.

Last week, pork production was placed at 550.0 million pounds, up 58.2 million, or 11.8%, from 491.8 million a year earlier and up 115.86 million, or 26.7%, from the 2014-2018 average of 434.14 million.




Fed cattle trade was reported last week at $95 to $100 per cwt on a live basis, steady to up $1 from the previous week’s range.  Dressed-basis trading was at $158 per cwt, up $1 to down $2.

The USDA choice cutout Monday was up $0.78 per cwt at $202.55, while select was off $0.50 at $190.13.  The choice/select spread widened to $12.42 from $11.14 with 77 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.

The CME Feeder Cattle index for the seven days ended Friday was $139.99 per cwt, down $0.56.  This compares with Monday’s Aug contract settlement of $139.35, down $2.70.