U.S. beef and pork production encountered significant challenges in April and May as COVID-19 outbreaks slowed or halted production. Further, many plants endured slowdowns as they implemented worker safety measures. This eventually led to some short-term meat shortages, raising concerns about available supplies. However, as U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) president and chief executive officer Dan Halstrom explained, production has rebounded significantly in recent weeks, underscoring the U.S. industry's ability to serve both domestic and international customers.
“There has been a lot of work within the supply chain on enhancements and improvements in response to COVID-19 at the live production level, the slaughter plant level and the logistical infrastructure,” Halstrom said. “Consequently, we are seeing dramatic rebounds in our ability to supply our customers both in the U.S. and globally.”
Halstrom reported that U.S. cattle slaughter for the week ending June 27 was at 680,000 head, up 4% from the previous week and 1.5% above a year ago. Live cattle weights averaged 1,369 lb., up 50 lb. from last year.
“This is the second-largest weekly kill in 2020 for the beef side,” he noted. “So, you can see from a production standpoint, we’re seeing dramatic improvement.”
Hog slaughter was estimated at 2.64 million head, up 11% year over year and the fourth consecutive week above year-ago levels, with live weights up 8 lb. from a year ago to 291 lb.
From a product mix standpoint, Halstrom explained that domestic demand is different from export demand, with international customers often purchasing cuts and products that U.S. consumers typically don’t.
“An ideal scenario in a livestock production chain is to maximize the value in such a way that we leverage the robust domestic demand, complemented by the export markets. Consequently, this rebound underscores our ability to service reliably not only our domestic customers but our international customers as well,” he said.