Total red meat supplies in US cold storage on Dec. 31 were 1.085 billion pounds, up 5,910, or 0.55%, from November’s 1.079 billion but down 20,774, or 1.88%, from 1.106 billion last year, the USDA said in its monthly Cold Storage report.
Total pounds of beef in the nation’s freezers were 567.002 million, up 36.049 million, or 6.79% from November’s 530.953 million and up 54.478 million, or 10.5%, from 512.524 million last year.
The graphed trajectory of the supplies implies even greater supplies.
However, frozen beef supplies tend to decline into August as buying interest picks up for grilling and production declines as the industry works its way through the cattle that were placed on feed at a young age in the fall and winter.
The average decline in cold storage beef stocks from January through August during the five-year period of 2010-2014 was 52.264 million, or 11.4%. A similar decline this year would put frozen stocks of beef at the end of August at 582.104 million pounds, 176.976 million, or 43.7%, more than the five-year August average of 405.128 million and 111.785 million, or 23.8% more than 2015’s 470.319 million.
Per capita beef consumption rose to an estimated 106.79 pounds last year, up from 105.11 pounds in 2015. Consumption was expected to rise again this year to 107.97 pounds.
PORK SUPPLIES DECLINE
Frozen pork supplies at the end of December were 477.214 million pounds, down 41.599 million, or 8.02%, from 518.813 million the previous month and down 68.482 million, or 12.5%, from 545.696 million last year.
It might be tempting to attribute the fourth-quarter inventory decline to greater seasonal demand for hams, but a look at the breakdown by item shows this was not necessarily the case until December when outflows from cold storage took stocks well below November.
Total pork loins in cold storage, for instance amounted to 39.130 million pounds, down 1.683 million, or 4.12%, from 40.813 million on Nov. 30 and down 7.091 million, or 15.3%, from the 2010-2014 average of 46.221 million.
That compares with total hams in cold storage at 69.713 million pounds, which were down 36.388 million, or 34.4%, from 106.101 million in November but was up 1.900 million, or 2.80%, above last year’s 67.813 million.
Estimated US per capita pork consumption declined a bit last year to 49.8 pounds after a sharp jump in 2015 to 49.8 pounds from 2014’s 45.8 pounds. The LMIC projected per capita consumption would increase this year and next year to 50.7 pounds.
CASH CATTLE TRADE QUIET
Average fed cattle exchange auction prices Wednesday were $1.45 per cwt higher at $121.97, versus $120.52 a week earlier.
Cash cattle then traded lightly at $121.50 to $124 on a live basis, up $0.50 to $1.
No dressed-basis trades were reported Wednesday but moved at $193 to $194 per cwt last week.
The USDA’s choice cutout Wednesday was down $0.49 per cwt at $191.25 per cwt, while select was up $0.99 at $189.16. The choice/select spread narrowed to $2.09 from $3.57 with 82 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.
The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Tuesday was $133.32 per cwt, up $0.04. This compares with Wednesday’s Jan settlement of $132.37, down $0.05, and Mar’s settlement of $129.85, down $0.32.