Beef: Moderately active cash cattle trade developed even earlier last week, with live sales in the South dropping by a further $3 to mostly $120/cwt. Dressed sales in the North declined by about $6 to mostly $194. Cutout values dropped sharply lower last week, primarily due to heavy losses in the middle meats, while the chuck and round primals showed more modest declines. There could still be a modest rebound in front of Memorial Day, before a declining trend in June and July. Following a jump the prior week to 670,000 head, the largest since the end of September 2011, last week's harvest eased to 664,000 head, which was 9,000 head above last year. Beef production was estimated at 532 million lb. for this week. Fed cattle carcass weights continued their weekly decline but were above year-ago levels.
Pork: Total pork exports for March were just released and showed strong levels, but not the records some were suggesting. Total pork leaving U.S. borders was 538.1 million lb. up 14% from February -- a normal seasonal increase, yet 4% lower than the prior year's record and the smallest March level in three years. This puts first-quarter 2019 levels below the 2018 first quarter by nearly 5%, as projected. For this year to show an increase over the prior year, the second half is going to have to be exceptionally strong to make up for the first quarter. Exports to the country of discussion of late, China, increased versus February but were only moderately stronger than seasonally expected, totaling 45.5 million lb. for China and Hong Kong combined. This was only a few percentage points higher than expected and was 4% below the previous year.
Poultry: Since the culmination of the 2018 Thanksgiving holiday season, there has been a notable uptick in turkey average liveweights, which has offset the 4% decline in cumulative tom turkey harvest and 1.7% decline in cumulative hen turkey harvest through the most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture data. For the week ended May 4, a total of 4.23 million turkeys were harvested at a weighted average of 32.8 lb. While the weekly harvest was down 1.9% compared with the same week a year earlier, liveweights were, on average, 6.4% higher than the same week a year earlier. The notable increase in weights contributed to a 4.3% year-over-year gain in turkey production at a total of 111.6 million lb. ready to cook (RTC). Cumulative RTC turkey meat production is now up 1.5% compared with a year earlier.
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