The US protein pipeline remains well supplied with beef and pork production significantly above year-ago levels. September’s beef production, at 2.35 billion pounds, was 8% higher than last year, while pork production rose 4%.
Cattle slaughter totaled 2.81 million head, up 5% from September 2019. The average live weight was up 27 pounds from the previous year, at 1,379 pounds. Hog slaughter totaled 11.0 million head, up 4%, and average live weight was up a modest 3 pounds to 285 pounds.
Maintaining these higher production levels will be critical to working through the backlog of animals. Disruptions to beef and pork supply chains due to the coronavirus pandemic have forced producers to hold on to animals longer, resulting in an increase in live and dressed weights of animals in the supply chain. It will take several months more to work through the glut of animals that built up because of COVID, which will continue to keep pressure on wholesale prices.
A bright note for the industry is that protein exports have soared in 2020. Pork commitments are at 1.8 million tonnes, a 20% increase from this time last year, with China representing 40% of the commitments. In beef, total sales commitments at 819,195 tonnes are 5% above last year’s pace, with China representing 25% of booked sales.
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