Weekly global protein digest: WHO considering risk of H5N1 spreading to cattle outside US, Salmonella ruling, Dairy report

Livestock analyst Jim Wyckoff reports on global protein news
calendar icon 6 May 2024
clock icon 16 minute read

Weekly USDA US beef, pork export sales

Beef: Net US sales of 22,500 MT for 2024--a marketing-year high--were up 48 percent from the previous week and 38 percent from the prior 4-week average. Increases were primarily for South Korea (9,600 MT, including decreases of 700 MT), Japan (5,200 MT, including decreases of 200 MT), Taiwan (2,500 MT, including decreases of 200 MT), China (1,600 MT, including decreases of 300 MT), and Mexico (1,100 MT, including decreases of 100 MT). Exports of 14,600 MT were up 6 percent from the previous week and 1 percent from the prior 4-week average. The destinations were primarily to Japan (3,800 MT), South Korea (3,400 MT), China (2,300 MT), Taiwan (1,400 MT), and Mexico (1,200 MT).

Pork: Net US sales of 33,600 MT for 2024 were up 17 percent from the previous week and 6 percent from the prior 4-week average. Increases were primarily for Mexico (21,600 MT, including decreases of 400 MT), Japan (4,200 MT, including decreases of 200 MT), Canada (1,300 MT, including decreases of 600 MT), Colombia (1,100 MT, including decreases of 100 MT), and South Korea (900 MT, including decreases of 100 MT). Exports of 36,200 MT were down 10 percent from the previous week and 5 percent from the prior 4-week average. The destinations were primarily to Mexico (14,200 MT), South Korea (5,300 MT), Japan (4,800 MT), China (3,600 MT), and Canada (1,900 MT).

WHO: Risk of H5N1 spreading to cattle outside US

A World Health Organization (WHO) official said there was a risk of the H5N1 virus spreading to cows in other countries beyond the US through migratory birds. “With the virus carried around the world by migratory birds, certainly there is a risk for cows in other countries of getting infected,” said the head of WHO’s Global Influenza Program. She reiterated WHO deems the overall public health risk posed by the virus to be low but urged vigilance.

USDA’s APHIS issues clarification on dairy cattle

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) issued a clarification concerning the movement of lactating dairy cattle through markets and auctions to slaughter. As of the Federal Order effective on April 29, 2024, the regulations clarify that the intrastate movement of lactating dairy cows to sale barns does not fall under the Federal Order. However, if these cows are then moved interstate from the sale barns directly to slaughter facilities, they must be accompanied by a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI), which certifies that the animals are clinically healthy. No additional testing is required for these movements.

This guidance is particularly aimed at ensuring that small farms can continue to cull cattle efficiently while addressing potential animal welfare concerns. It primarily affects states where direct movements to slaughter are restricted but where cattle are typically consolidated at sale barns and auctions before being moved as a "lot" to slaughter facilities out of state. The clarification was issued promptly to assist these farms in planning and compliance ahead of the new regulations taking effect.

Gold-standard test shows US pasteurized milk safe, H5N1 found in Colorado

FDA late last Friday said preliminary results from gold-standard PCR testing showed pasteurization killed the virus in milk and baby formula. It did not say how many milk products it had tested but added that it plans to do more testing on 297 products from 38 states. Meanwhile, USDA confirmed dairy cattle in Colorado tested positive for the virus, the ninth state with a known outbreak.

USDA forecasts US milk production

The 2024 milk production forecast has been lowered to 226.3 (-1.0) billion pounds due to slower anticipated milk yield per cow, with cow numbers remaining unchanged. Dairy product price forecasts show mixed changes from last month’s forecasts with Cheddar cheese at $1.620 (-9.0 cents), dry whey at $0.425 (-2.5 cents), butter at $2.925 (+12.5 cents), and nonfat dry milk (NDM) at $1.180 (-3.0 cents) per pound. The Class III milk forecast is now $16.20 per hundredweight (cwt), down $0.95 due to lower cheese and dry whey prices. Despite lower NDM price forecast, the Class IV price forecast has risen to $20.40 per cwt, up $0.30 due to higher butter prices. The all-milk price for 2024 is projected at $20.90 per cwt, down $0.35 from the previous month’s forecast.

USDA updates food price outlook, projecting a more modest rise in US food prices for 2024

The USDA forecast for all food is now at an increase of 2.2%, with grocery store prices expected to go up by 1.2%. This marks a slight decrease from the March outlook. Restaurant prices are anticipated to increase by 4.2%, a minor uptick from the March prediction of 4.1%. While there have been month-to-month fluctuations, USDA notes that most food categories are predicted to see price changes below their 20-year historical average in 2024. The only exceptions are fish and seafood, and dairy products, which are expected to decrease by 1.6%. Pork prices are projected to remain stable, revising the previous forecast of a decline. Egg prices have been notably volatile, affected by the avian influenza outbreak, yet are expected to be 4.8% higher, consistent with the March outlook but above the historical average.

Overall, the trend reflects ongoing consumer price pressures, though the rate of increase has slowed. Restaurant prices continue to rise faster than the average, influenced by factors such as rent, utilities, and labor costs, including the impact of minimum wage hikes. There's also evidence of a consumer divide, with high-income individuals buying more premium products and lower-income shoppers focusing on budget-friendly options, potentially leading to a market shift that could squeeze middle-tier consumers.

USDA to unveil final rule on salmonella in some uncooked chicken products

USDA today will announce a final rule the agency has developed which would declare salmonella an adulterant in some raw chicken products, the first time the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has taken such a step. The action would allow the agency to request the recall of products that test positive for even a low level of salmonella. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) finished its review of the USDA plan earlier this week. The new rule will apply only to raw breaded stuffed chicken products which make up less than 0.15% of the US chicken supply.

The poultry industry is not welcoming the rules, arguing that USDA lacks the authority to declare salmonella an adulterant. The rule is set to take effect one year from when it is published in the Federal Register and officials have expressed confidence the new rule will withstand any legal challenges.

FDA: H5N1 found in one-fifth of milk samples, but still safe for consumers

Initial results show about one in five retail samples of milk showed traces of the H5N1 virus that has impacted the US dairy herd. FDA noted quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR)-positive do not necessarily represent actual virus that may be a risk to consumers. Additional testing is required to determine whether intact pathogen is still present and if it remains infectious, which would help inform a determination of whether there is any risk of illness associated with consuming the product. FDA is further assessing any positive findings through egg inoculation tests, a gold-standard for determining if infectious virus is present. “To date, the retail milk studies have shown no results that would change our assessment that the commercial milk supply is safe,” FDA said.

Last week, Colombia banned certain US beef imports due to bird flu concerns, signaling potential global market risks. Colombia's import halt is a small portion of the US' $10 billion beef exports; no other nation has followed suit. The US Meat Export Federation anticipates shipment delays to the Dominican Republic.

USDA annual US dairy production summary

Total cheese production, excluding cottage cheeses, was 14.2 billion pounds, 0.9 percent above 2022 production.

Wisconsin was the leading State with 24.7 percent of the production. Italian varieties, with 5.85 billion pounds was 0.8 percent below 2022 production and accounted for 41.2 percent of total cheese in 2023. Mozzarella accounted for 78.7 percent of the Italian production followed by Parmesan with 8.3 percent and Provolone with 6.4 percent. Wisconsin was the leading State in Italian cheese production with 28.6 percent of the production. American type cheese production was 5.84 billion pounds, 3.0 percent above 2022 and accounted for 41.1 percent of total cheese in 2023. Wisconsin was the leading State in American type cheese production with 18.8 percent of the production.

Butter production in the United States during 2023 totaled 2.12 billion pounds, 2.7 percent above 2022. California was the leading state in Butter production with 32.2 percent of the production.

Dry milk powders (2023 United States production, comparisons in percentage with 2022)

Nonfat dry milk, human - 1.87 billion pounds, down 4.4 percent.

Skim milk powders - 695 million pounds, up 5.6 percent.

Whey products (2023 United States production, comparisons in percentage with 2022)

Dry whey, total - 938 million pounds, up 2.5 percent.

Lactose, human and animal - 1.11 billion pounds, down 0.6 percent.

Whey protein concentrate, total - 502 million pounds, up 11.3 percent.

Frozen products (2023 United States production, comparisons in percentage with 2022)

Ice cream, Regular (total) - 849 million gallons, down 8.2 percent.

Ice cream, Lowfat (total) - 451 million gallons, up 1.2 percent.

Sherbet (total) - 27.9 million gallons, down 14.9 percent.

Frozen Yogurt (total) - 42.4 million gallons, up 11.1 percent.

Mandated testing for bird flu in dairy cows being transported between states

The testing mandate was announced by the Biden administration following the detection of the virus in herds. USDA’s new order stipulates that cows must test negative for the influenza A viruses, which include bird flu, before transport, and herds with positive tests must report cattle movements to assist with disease tracing. Despite a highly contagious bird flu strain detected in the US in 2022, officials maintain that the risk to the public remains low, with only one mild human infection reported thus far. Inactive viral fragments have been found in pasteurized milk, indicating wider virus spread among cattle than expected. USDA will reimburse for the testing of cows and aims to process thousands of tests daily, with a reporting time of one to three days. Public health experts have urged more rigorous testing and protective measures for dairy workers to prevent further spread and potential adaptation of the virus to humans.

Meanwhile, Colombia has acted to block fresh/frozen beef and beef products from cattle slaughtered on or after April 15 in Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, South Dakota, and Texas. USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) said the restrictions are "temporary" and could result in shipments being held at port even if exporters have a valid import permit. Indications are that the Dominican Republic may also deploy some restrictions, but FSIS information does reflect any change as of yet.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said last Wednesday that "based on the information we currently have available," the US milk supply is safe, and no live virus had been found in milk. The virus particles likely showed up in milk from asymptomatic cows that were found to be infected through testing, he said. More than 2,000 tests have been carried out on cattle in the last several weeks. More than 2,000 tests have been carried out on cattle in the last several weeks, Vilsack said, with USDA now expecting it will need about $500 million to address the situation in dairy, poultry, wild birds, and perhaps other species and a request to transfer money from the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) for the effort.

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) welcomed USDA’s actions and emphasized that the milk supply remains safe thanks to pasteurization—which inactivates viruses like HPAI. “Since this virus was first discovered in cows, H5N1 in dairy cattle has been primarily an animal health concern,” said NMPF President and CEO Gregg Doud. “Today’s announcements and actions underscore that continued concern and focus on the well-being of animals and those who care for them.” Doud stressed that USDA and FDA research “has established what accumulated science indicated all along: The consumer milk supply is safe,” because of pasteurization. “Pasteurization renders the H5N1 virus, like other viruses, inactive, an important reminder to consumers of its value as a basic safeguard for human health. We appreciate that these agencies are sharing this message, which will help alleviate any concerns consumers may have,” he stated. “That said, the presence of this virus in dairy herds, as well as dairy farmers’ own commitment to animal and human health, makes USDA’s actions on testing and interstate travel appropriate,” Doud added. “Dairy farmers stand ready to take a proactive approach to ensuring that we better understand the spread of the virus, do what we can to limit that spread, and ensure the health of our animals and workers.”

Of note: The FDA hasn’t completed specific tests to confirm that pasteurization would make milk from infected cows safe, though the agency considers it “very likely” based on extensive testing for other pathogens.

Weekly USDA dairy report

CME GROUP CASH MARKETS (4/26) BUTTER: Grade AA closed at $2.9700. The weekly average for Grade AA is $2.9750 (+0.0500). CHEESE: Barrels closed at $1.7725 and 40# blocks at $1.7500. The weekly average for barrels is $1.7705 (+0.1580) and blocks $1.7500 (+0.1345). NONFAT DRY MILK: Grade A closed at $1.1100. The weekly average for Grade A is $1.1130 (-0.0120). DRY WHEY: Extra grade dry whey closed at $0.3825. The weekly average for dry whey is $0.3810 (+0.0010).

BUTTER HIGHLIGHTS: In the West region, domestic butter demand ranges from slightly higher to slightly lighter compared to the week prior. However, domestic butter demand is unchanged for the Central region. In the East region, foodservice demand is unchanged, and retail demand is following seasonal expectations. Cream is widely available throughout the country, and some butter manufacturers convey securing additional cream volumes. Butter makers are running busy production schedules and continue to build bulk butter inventory for late summer and fall needs. Some stakeholders note unsalted butter loads are tight. Bulk butter overages range from 2 to 10 cents above market, across all regions.

CHEESE HIGHLIGHTS: Cheese production schedules are trending steady to stronger throughout the US. Some Eastern cheese plant contacts share that seasonally strong milk availability has enabled steady cheese production. Cheese inventories in the area are comfortable, but demand has increased in recent weeks, as have prices for both blocks and barrels on the CME. Foodservice demand is light. Retail demands in the region are steady to higher. Central area cheese manufacturers share, too, notable increases in cheese demand. Curd, cheddar, and Italian-style cheese demands are all stronger than in recent weeks. Spot milk prices were reported at $3- to $1- under Class III. Cheese manufacturers in the West note strong cheese production. Milk handlers share milk availability is adequate to meet processing needs. Contacts share cheese inventories are available for spot purchasers. Western contacts say demand from domestic buyers is steady to moderate, while international interests are quiet.

FLUID MILK: Throughout the East region, and much of the West region, milk output is steady to stronger, though contacts in the mountain states of Idaho, Utah, and Colorado say production varies from slightly weaker to strengthening. In the Midwest, contacts report milk component levels are somewhat enriched currently. In the East, contacts relay Class I demand is steady to strong, but contacts in the Midwest report Class I intakes are nearing the end of the 2023/2024 school year. Class II demand is expected to pick up soon in the Northeast and Pacific Northwest. In the Midwest, cheesemakers relayed spot milk prices ranging from $5 to $1- under Class III. Cream multiples moved lower at the bottom in the Midwest, were unchanged in the West, and moved higher at the top in the East. Cream multiple ranges for all Classes are: 1.08 – 1.25 in the East, 1.08 – 1.26 in the Midwest, and 1.00 – 1.26 in the West.

DRY PRODUCTS: Low/medium heat nonfat dry milk (NDM) prices moved lower this week, though contacts say demand varies from region to region. High heat NDM moved lower in the West and at the bottom of the Central and East region price range. High heat NDM production is seasonally light in the West. Dry buttermilk prices held steady in the Central and East regions, while moving lower in the West. Plant managers report liquid buttermilk is available for drying amid strong butter production. Dry whole milk prices moved lower this week. Dry whey prices moved lower in the East and West but were unchanged in the Central region. In the East and West, dry whey production is steady, and spot loads are available for purchasing. The bottom of the whey protein concentrate 34% (WPC 34%) price range moved lower this week. Contacts report demand for WPC 34% is light, and production is limited. The bottom of the lactose price range moved higher this week; contacts relay robust domestic demand. Prices for acid casein were unchanged this week, but rennet casein prices decreased.


WESTERN EUROPE: European milk production is variable across Europe. Industry sources are reporting relatively strong milk production both seasonally and week to week on mainland Europe. Generally favorable weather has provided good pasture growth, and forages are in a healthy supply across mainland Europe. In the United Kingdom, pasture growth rates are decent, but wet weather has hampered getting the cows out to pasture and have created concerns about potential impacts on forages and feed quality if the wet conditions persist. 

EASTERN EUROPE: Bolstered by favorable weather and dairy expansions, milk output continues to grow in many of the East European countries. According to CLAL data made available to USDA, the provisional February 2024 cows' milk production in Belarus was up from February 2023. January - February 2024 provisional milk production in Belarus up from January - February 2023. 

AUSTRALIA: Dairy Australia recently released export data for Australia showing milk export volumes from July 2023 - February 2024 were down from the same time period a year earlier. The Australia Bureau of Meteorology recently announced El Niño has ended, though they are unsure if La Niña conditions will develop later in the year. 

NEW ZEALAND: Milk production data from New Zealand for March 2024 was recently released. This data showed total March 2024 production was down on a tonnage basis compared to a year earlier. Following the release of milk production data in New Zealand, an analyst group in the country stated March milk production in New Zealand was the weakest since 2020 in terms of milk solids and on a tonnage basis. El Niño contributed to drier than normal weather conditions in the country and many farmers experienced drought-like conditions as well as irrigation restrictions due to low water table levels. 

SOUTH AMERICA: As fall sets in on the South American continent, milk production varies from one area to the next and there are variances within each country, to boot. Brazil reports for early 2024 show somewhat steady output figures with previous years, barring 2022, which was a notably strong production year. Mother Nature's impact on Argentina's agricultural sector continues to challenge regional farmers. The relatively warm and dry fall weather has introduced a leafhopper invasion, pushing corn crop estimates lower by noticeable figures. After late summer/early autumn heavy rains, Uruguay's fall is generally mild. Milk availability for processing, according to contacts in Uruguay, has been in balance with processing needs in recent weeks/months. Brazilian contacts say that country's traders are busy and have been throughout April. That said, tax incentives for Brazilian processors to use locally sourced ingredients have kept imports from surging. Argentine and Uruguayan traders relay similar sentiment regarding recent weeks.

NATIONAL US RETAIL REPORT: Week 17 saw a shift downwards in conventional retail dairy ad numbers from last week. The number of organic dairy ads decreased from last week. The most advertised conventional dairy commodity this week was cheese. Milk remained the most advertised organic dairy commodity in this week’s survey. Conventional 6-8-ounce sliced cheese was the most advertised dairy product found in this week’s survey. Half gallons of organic milk were the most advertised organic dairy item this week.

Sarah Mikesell


Sarah Mikesell grew up on a five-generation family farming operation in Ohio, USA, where her family still farms. She feels extraordinarily lucky to get to do what she loves - write about livestock and crop agriculture. You can find her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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