U.S. set to produce record number of hogs in 2016

Curious PigsAccording to the National Pork Board, America’s pig farmers will produce a record-breaking number of market hogs this year, resulting in ample supplies of pork hitting grocery stores and restaurants, a trend that will continue well into 2017.

“The U.S. economy is growing, and that is good for meat demand,” Len Steiner, a pork industry economist, said in a recent article. “Some key indicators of growth include the stock market recently hitting all-time record highs, increasing consumer confidence, and an unemployment rate now at 4.9%, demonstrating the U.S. economy is at or near full employment.”

Steiner added that total meat production continues to increase, moving from 90.9 billion pounds in 2014 with expectations for meat output to exceed 101 billion pounds this year. Not since the mid-1990s has meat production increased so quickly.

“We estimate that 2016 U.S. pork production will set an all-time record just shy of 25 billion pounds, with even more pork expected to be produced in 2017,” Steiner said. “The good news is that retailers and foodservice operators feel more secure about the growing meat supply, which can translate into falling meat prices and more promotional activity.”

And with a record amount of pork to go around, the article explains that means less expensive Christmas hams, pork roasts, candied bacon and pork chops for consumers this holiday season.

This news comes after several years of high corn prices and the occurrence of PEDv disease, which reduced pork production and added to the high price for finishing hogs. However, more recently corn and soybean meal production has increased and feed costs are down, meaning producers are converting large supplies of grain into livestock that is harvested for meat and many other products.

National Pork Board President, Jan Archer, who is a pig farmer from North Carolina, noted that the Pork Checkoff is taking a number of steps right now to help move the large supply of pork through the U.S. market place.

“The fourth quarter is consistently the strongest quarter for pork sales,” Patrick Fleming, director of market intelligence for the National Pork Board, said in the article. “In 2015, fourth-quarter pork sales totaled $3.6 billion, with the 1.125 billion pounds representing 28% of the sales for the entire year. The industry is prepared for a similar situation in 2016.”

Fleming also added that in foodservice, pork is on trend as the fastest-growing protein.

While the high value of the U.S. dollar and competition from other countries in key export markets have curbed U.S. pork export demand, there are positive signs on the horizon.

“About 25% of U.S. pork production goes overseas, and we need to keep moving product to keep producers profitable,” said Becca Nepple, vice president of international trade for the National Pork Board. “Mexico, China, Japan, Korea and Canada are our big five buyers, and the Pork Checkoff, through the U.S. Meat Export Federation, continues to invest in pork promotions overseas.”

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