CME: Growth in US Total Meat, Poultry Amount

US - The amount of meat and poultry in US freezers grew slightly (2.2 per cent) in February but, at month’s end, stood over 10 per cent lower than one year earlier for the fifth straight month, according to Steve Meyer and Len Steiner.
calendar icon 23 March 2010
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Inventory numbers for all meat and poultry species and cuts appear in the table (see bottom of this page). The chart below shows monthly freezer stocks for the four major species back to 2000. Some important take-aways from Monday’s report are:

  • Total beef, pork, chicken and turkey in freezers amounted to 1.914 billion poiunds, 12.9 per cent lower than on year ago. February’s inventory is still among the lowest figures since 2004.

  • There were 401.6 million pounds of beef in freezers on February 28, 7.6 per cent lower than one year ago and the lowest monthly inventory since July 2005. The large reduction in beef stocks was in the boneless category which stood at 337.3 million pounds or 8.7 per cent lower than one year ago and 7 per cent lower than just one month ago. Note that boneless beef, as is normal, accounted for roughly 80 per cent of total beef in freezers.

  • Pork stock grew by 5 per cent in February to a total of 516.8 million pounds but that figure is 17 per cent lower than one year ago. It is quite normal for pork stocks to grow in the winter months and the peak usually occurs in April or May. This year’s seasonal increase began at an unusually low level after freezer stocks continued to shrink counter-seasonally last fall. Higher fourth quarter slaughter usually means more pork in freezers but pork movement was high enough in 2009 to keep the inventories shrinking. Ribs, butts and variety meats were the only cuts whose stocks were higher yearon- year. Frozen belly inventories were 26.5 per cent lower than last year while ham inventories were 11.5 per cent lower. Trimmings saw the largest year-on-year reduction, falling 31.5 per cent from last year and 3.2 per cent from the end of January. Record-high sow prices have no doubt impacted trimmings usage as sausage manufacturers try to utilize trimmings as a substitute for very expensive sow meat.

  • February chicken stocks were 1 per cent lower than at the end of January and 3.6 per cent per cent lower than one year ago. The 624.3 million pounds of chicken in freezers on February 28 was the lowest total since May of 2007. Stocks of whole chickens and breast meat were lower versus one year ago while stocks of hind-quarter cuts were generally higher. Of particular interest was the stocks of leg quarters which were +7 per cent for the month and +21 per cent from last year. This is the cut most directly impacted by Russia’s suspension of US chicken imports — a decision rescinded last week.

  • Turkey stocks continued their normal post-holiday buildup, increasing 14 per cent during February. But the amount of turkey in storage is now 25 per cent lower than one year. The turkey industry has reduced output in response to higher input costs more than any of the other major species.

Pork packers’ margins remain high by historical standards in spite of higher cash hog bids. Our estimated gross packer margin for the week of March 20 was $22.67, the lowest of this year but MUCH higher than last year’s abysmal levels and over $3/head higher than the 2004-2008 average. As can be seen in this chart, pork packing margins have been on a wild roller coaster ride since 2008, reaching one of their highest levels ever in August 2008 and then their lowest level ever last summer. A major reason for the improvement has been a steady rise in by-product values from $13/hd. in late 2008 to nearly $20/hd in recent weeks.

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