Hog farmers struggled with a coronavirus-caused backlog of market-ready hogs that peaked at 3.5 million head at the end of May, forcing them to cull some and slowing weight gain on others. The backlog remains large, but Purdue economist Jayson Lusk says farmers may see "possibly elevated hog prices" by the end of the year as the hog supply shrinks.
Grocery store prices for meat are declining after their springtime coronavirus surge, but more slowly than expected, meaning that shoppers will pay noticeably more at the meat counter this year than in 2019, said USDA economists. In the monthly Food Price Outlook, the USDA forecast meat prices will rise 6.5 percent this year, more than double their usual rate.
As many as 18 percent of workers in meat and poultry plants are infected with the coronavirus in Iowa and South Dakota, while Pennsylvania and Nebraska account for one-quarter of the Covid-19 cases nationwide, said CDC scientists and state public health officials. The CDC released the report as Smithfield Foods, one of the giants of the meat industry, began to reopen a hog plant that was a coronavirus hot spot three weeks ago.(No paywall)
Under pressure from state and local officials, Smithfield Foods said that its mammoth pork plant in Sioux Falls "will remain closed until further notice" and suggested Covid-19 cases could jeopardize the U.S. food supply. The pork plant was linked to 38 percent of confirmed Covid-19 cases in South Dakota.(No paywall)
As a young man, Johnny Carroll Sain dreamed of owning an industrial hog farm like his uncle. Eventually, he did, raising hogs for Cargill on 55 acres in northern Arkansas. He's out of the business now, and in FERN's latest piece, published with Arkansas Life, he explores how industrial meat production has damaged the environment, the economy, and the social cohesion in his rural community. (No paywall)
The U.S. hog inventory is up 3 percent from a year ago, according to a quarterly report by USDA. Beef and poultry production are also expanding, leading USDA to forecast a nearly 4-percent increase in the meat supply this year. The increase is so large that per capita meat consumption is expected to increase by 5.6 pounds, to 222.4 pounds per person.
The U.S. hog inventory is 2 percent larger than a year ago, an indicator that pork supplies will expand in the year ahead, according to USDA's quarterly Hogs and Pigs report. "Consumers want pork. America's pig farmers are delivering with excellent production performance," says National Hog Farmer, a trade publication, which cites an analysis that the low unemployment rate will mean higher earnings for American in 2018 and drive up meat prices.
Hog farmers are sending more hogs to market this year, which ordinarily would pull down pork prices in the supermarket. That's not the case this year, according to USDA economists, because consumer demand for bacon is bolstering pork prices overall.
Overall U.S. grocery prices will not rise at all this year — the first time in four decades of records that the inflation rate would hit zero, says the Agriculture Department, pointing to the effects of low petroleum prices, the strong dollar and falling prices for beef, pork and poultry. Retail food prices were flat or fell during six of the first eight months of 2016, assuring "a rate of inflation (or possibly deflation) that would again fall below the 20-year historical average of 2.5 percent," says the Food Price Outlook.