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Cattle slaughter remains above year-ago levels.

Beef: Last week's holiday-shortened schedule saw weekly federally inspected cattle slaughter slip to an estimated 555,000 head. However, this remained well above last year's level of 529,000 head. There were year-over-year increases in steer and heifer slaughter, as well as a larger cow slaughter. Weekly cattle slaughter could work its way back up toward the 635,000-head area through the remainder of September, averaging 4-5% larger than year ago. Weekly steer and heifer slaughter is expected to stay above 500,000 head going into the fall, with fourth-quarter numbers showing smaller-than-seasonal declines from the third quarter and averaging 3-4% above the very large year-over-year increase seen last fall. Recent weekly cow slaughter has increased to the 110,000- to 115,000-head area and should increase further to 120,000 head and a little higher going into fall peaks in late November and early December. Cow slaughter this fall is expected to average 5-6% above last year.

Pork: Export numbers for July, released last week, were 390 million lb. -- not even close to the record levels for July 2013 and under last year by 3.27%. Not only were levels below last year, but they were extremely lackluster versus expectations. The export markets have been on a roll this entire year, and while July is not normally a strong month for exports, it was thought that there would be an increase over the prior year. There may be a direct reason total volume was lower in July. Remember, product pricing was high in July; the cutout was higher than prior year by 13.6% in July. When factoring in dollars paid with volume, foreign nations bought 13.2% more in product value but received less volume for it.

Poultry: The most recent trade data released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture showed that U.S. broiler meat exports totaled 563 million lb. during July. While that number was down slightly from a year earlier, it brings cumulative exports of broiler meat up 3.9% from the pace set in 2016. Informa IEG projects third-quarter exports of U.S. broiler meat at 1.75 billion lb., which represents 17% of the 10.3 billion lb. that are forecasted. Mexico currently is the largest market for U.S. broiler meat, importing 104 million lb. during July. With U.S. broiler meat exports to Mexico on the decline this year, however, that number was slightly lower than June and 6.3% lower than a year ago, taking cumulative broiler meat exports to Mexico down 8.2% from a year ago, with an expectation that they will be down 6.2% overall this year compared to 2016. While export growth to Mexico is struggling to make pace, exports to non-traditional markets still are improving.

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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