Seven-Month Meat, Dairy Imports Mixed

January-July US meat and dairy imports were mixed compared with the same period last year, according to the USDA Economic Research Service’s monthly Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook Thursday.

Imports of beef, lamb and mutton, and dairy increased, while pork imports declined, the Outlook report said.




January-July beef imports increased 8.5%, the report said. Of major foreign beef suppliers, imports from Australia and Canada declined, while those from New Zealand, Mexico, Brazil, Uruguay and Nicaragua increased.

Beef packers continued to make gains on fed-cattle processing, the ERS said.  Based on USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service data for actual and estimated slaughter of steers and heifers in August, the pace of fed cattle slaughter appeared to rise above year-ago levels for the first time since March.

The pace of slaughter was estimated at almost 1% more than August 2019.

Because of this quicker-than-expected pace of slaughter, the number of fed cattle projected to be slaughtered in third-quarter 2020 was raised, the ERS said.  This adjustment more than offsets fewer expected cows slaughtered and a reduction in average carcass weights for the quarter, based on recent slaughter data.

In fourth-quarter 2020, more cows and bulls were expected to be slaughtered, the report said.  These factors raised the 2020 beef production forecast by 20 million pounds from last month to 27.0 billion.




Imports of pork declined almost 12%, mostly on lower imports from Poland, the ERS said.

July and August data indicate the US pork processing industry largely rebounded from COVID-19-related capacity utilization reductions that constrained production in the spring and early summer, the ERS report said.

For July, AMS data show capacity utilization averaged 94.7%, and for August it averaged 95.2%.  For the week ending Sep. 11, USDA data indicated the federally inspected processing industry operated at 96.6% of capacity.

USDA data for July and August showed hog slaughter and pork production were up from a year ago.  Estimated federally inspected slaughter data for the week ending July 3 through Aug. 28 indicated that 22.7 million head of hogs were processed, compared with 21.3 million during the same period last year, an increase of 6.3%.

Larger slaughter numbers combined with higher average dressed weights to yield larger volumes of pork, the ERS said.  Production in weeks 27-35 this year was 4.8 billion pounds, an increase of more than 7% from the same period last year.

Based on the August USDA Cattle on Feed report, there were 12.4% more net placements in July than in the previous year, which was greater than expected, the report said.

Combined with the number of cattle in feedlots yet to be slaughtered in July because of the reduced slaughter capacity in the second quarter, the increase in placements pushed cattle on feed on Aug. 1 to the largest number for the month since the series began in 1996, the report said.




Fed cattle trading this week was reported in the Plains at $103 to $104 per cwt on a live basis, up $2 from last week.  Dressed-basis trading was reported at $162 per cwt, up $1 to $2.

The USDA choice cutout Thursday was down $0.33 per cwt at $215.05, while select was off $1.12 at $203.39.  The choice/select spread widened to $11.66 from $10.87 with 175 loads of fabricated product and 42 loads of trimmings and grinds sold into the spot market.

The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Wednesday was at $141.20 per cwt, up $0.60.  This compares with Thursday’s Sep contract settlement of $139.92 per cwt, down $0.57.