Processor margins pressured by high hog prices

November hog slaughter numbers almost 2% lower than same time last year.

Krissa Welshans, Livestock Editor

December 21, 2022

2 Min Read
Pork Carcass packer processing processor FDS NHF GettyImages-1126326891.jpeg
Getty Images/iStock

Hog slaughter numbers were seasonally higher in November, but Q4 federally inspected (FI) hog slaughter numbers are likely to finish out the year lower than a year earlier, in line with information reported in USDA’s September “Quarterly Hogs and Pigs” report, noted USDA economist Mildred Haley in the latest “Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook” report.

According to Haley, the September report indicated that the spring pig crop—from which November slaughter hogs would be drawn—was down 1% from a year earlier. Estimated November FI hog slaughter totaled 10.9 million head, almost 2% lower than November 2021. Processors paid higher prices for fewer head slaughtered in November, with the average live equivalent price of 51-52% lean hogs at $63.72/cwt., almost 17% higher than average prices in November 2021.

Haley noted that estimated FI pork production in November—about 2.3 billion pounds—reflects both fewer hogs slaughtered and slower growth in dressed weights. Further, she said estimated FI dressed weights averaged about 215 pounds, down more than a pound from a year ago, which is likely due to the elevated feed costs and disease problems experienced by the industry earlier this year.

Meanwhile, processors received higher wholesale prices for lower volumes of pork cuts in November. Volumes of November 2022 negotiated sales of primal loads were almost 12% lower than in November 2021. The average carcass cutout value was $93.43/cwt., about 3% higher than last November. Haley noted that 2022 wholesale pork values have mostly stayed close to the historically high values of 2021.

“Cutout values last year were likely driven by lower pork production and by demand factors— tastes and preferences for pork—that changed during the pandemic-related lockdowns,” she explained, adding that wholesale pork values this year have largely stayed high due to a combination of reduced 2022 pork supplies similar domestic demand factors.

For processors, a 16.9% year-over-year rise in November hog prices more than offset the benefits accruing from higher wholesale values (up 2.73% year over year), Haley noted.

“The per hog difference between the two—the gross processors’ spread—declined to $32.74 per hog, more than 37% below last November’s calculation.”

About the Author(s)

Krissa Welshans

Livestock Editor

Krissa Welshans grew up on a crop farm and cow-calf operation in Marlette, Michigan. Welshans earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Michigan State University and master’s degree in public policy from New England College. She and her husband Brock run a show cattle operation in Henrietta, Texas, where they reside with their son, Wynn.

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