US Beef, Chicken Cold Storage Levels Dwarf Prior Years’ Levels

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US cold storage inventories for beef and chicken continued to spike well above normal levels in April, amid ongoing disruptions to food supply chains caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

US beef inventories for April 2020 were 13.9% higher than April 2019, and 6% above the 5-year average. Chicken inventories for the latest month were up 6.1% versus 2019, and up 13.5% from the 5-year average. Looking just at chicken breast and breast meat, these inventories jumped sharply by 33% year over year, and were up 37.3% versus the 5-year average.

On the other hand, pork inventories saw a slight 1.1% decline versus April 2019, and were also 3.5% lower than the 5-year average. Heightened exports in 2019 and early 2020 led to an overall drawdown in pork stocks.

Month-over-month inventory levels changed only slightly, reflecting the seasonality of storage. Total beef inventories of 490 million pounds saw a 2.5% month-over-month decline in April, following March’s 1.6% gain. There is a strong seasonal influence that pushes beef inventories lower into the spring and summer. In chicken, total inventories increased 1% month over month driven by a surge in chicken breasts, which jumped 8.1% from March 2020 figures. As we’ve written previously about the poultry industry, chicken processors aren’t able to slow their production lines quickly, leading to an overabundance of meat relative to weakened demand stemming from restaurant closures.

Total April 2020 pork inventories of 614.8 million pounds were 0.3% lower than March 2020. Similar to beef, the spring/summer decline in frozen pork stocks is linked to reduced slaughter at this time of year.

The USDA’s Cold Storage data, released monthly, has always been a rearview-mirror report for the industry, and a single report never tells the whole story. Gro’s vast library of data, which also includes weekly export data, weekly slaughter rates, and wholesale price data, can help users put together the puzzle pieces.

US cold storage inventories of chicken breast and breast meat continued to soar in April 2020. The latest year is shown by the marked line and is compared with previous years.

This insight was powered by the Gro platform, which enables better and faster decisions about factors affecting the entire global agricultural ecosystem. Gro organizes over 40,000 datasets from sources around the world into a unified ontology, which allows users to derive valuable insights such as this one. You can explore the data available on Gro with a free account, or please get in touch if you would like to learn more about a specific crop, region, or business issue.

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