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Shipments of U.S. turkey meat up 13% from last year.

Beef: Slowing beef movement and more moderate production schedules, along with seasonally larger fed cattle supplies, curtailed buyer interest last week. Cattle purchase costs spiraled sharply lower, skidding to $138/cwt., off $7 from the prior week. The recent surge in cattle purchase costs and deteriorating operating margins underpinned further increases in beef prices, with the blended cutout closing the week near $242/cwt., about $8 higher than the previous week and more than $35 higher than the early-April low. The surge in beef prices has exacted a toll on spot sales volumes, although availability continues to be tempered by the large out-front commitments booked earlier. However, the sharply higher spot prices and widening premiums to competing pork and chicken items boost the risk of significant post-holiday beef price weakness. Despite yet another announcement regarding beef trade with China last week, the announcement held too few details to inspire much confidence that the ensuing euphoria will materialize on schedule.

Pork: Export data for March revealed more pork exiting the country than projected, and all indications suggest that this could continue. Total pork exports were nearly 524 million lb. The previous single-month record was last November, which surprised the industry at 510 million lb. To say this past March was off the charts might seem like hyperbole, but it represented an increase of more than 15% from the year prior and a level no one was projecting. Total exports for the first quarter ended more than 17% higher than 2016. March is typically the largest month for pork exports, and at present, estimates reflect that this will be the case again this year. The surprise would be if late-year exports exceeded the recent March total.

Poultry: Mexico is a key export destination for the U.S. turkey industry, accounting for slightly more than 60% of total shipments so far in 2017 and generally between one-half and two-thirds of total shipments over the past few years. Concerns with respect to turkey trade with Mexico have been quite low regarding the recent outbreaks of avian influenza, as the only listing of bans on the entry of poultry products to Mexico were for poultry products originating or processed in the state of Tennessee after March 1, 2017. Shipments of turkey meat are expected to continue to channel to foreign destinations at higher levels in 2017 than they did in 2016 under the protective bans in place in top destinations. In the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest account of turkey exports, it was revealed that March shipments of U.S. turkey meat totaled just 46 million lb., up 13% from last year. Total shipments during the first quarter were 158 million lb., up 16% from the same time last year.

For a more detailed look at the weekly forecasts for the various meat sectors and meat cuts, subscribe to the "Meat Price Outlook." Contact Susan Dahlgren at [email protected] for more information.

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