Beef: The two-tiered market that started to develop recently widened even further last week. Cash cattle trade in the South remained steady at $124/cwt. on a live basis. With continued tighter availability in the North and another harsh weather system that recently moved through the area, producers held out until late Friday afternoon. Light trade began to develop at $127-128, up $1-2 from the previous week and $3-4 above the sales in the South. Strength in the middle meats helped strengthen cutout values last week, while the end meats were steady to weaker. Firmness on cutout values is expected to carry into mid- or late May.
Pork: The pork cutout was expected to pull back last week, and hams and loins certainly made attempts to make that happen, but bellies have been relentless. Packers are pulling back on harvest levels to pressure hog valuations, especially as packers may need to find a few places for hams in the next few weeks. If packers can push the hog valuations lower, then the cutout should be able to ease as well. If they cannot pressure hog values, then packers may pull back harvest levels only to tighten the supply and further support prices so they work higher. The forecast has weakness penciled for the next three weeks, followed by successive increases into the middle of July.
Poultry: In the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s most recent monthly “Poultry Slaughter” report, total young chickens harvested during February came in at a total of 698 million head. The total number of broilers harvested during February was up 0.6% compared with the same month a year earlier. USDA reported average liveweights for young chickens harvested during February at 6.21 lb., which was 0.3% lower than the same month a year earlier and compares with an average liveweight of 6.25 lb. reported for January. Nearby, growth in broiler production is expected to remain dampened by stagnant average liveweights. However, analysts’ estimates for March broiler meat production remain additionally disciplined compared with the year before by a reduction in available processing days. February broiler production totaled 3.26 billion lb. ready-to-cook, up just 0.2% from the prior year.
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