US Turkey in Cold Storage Still Down after Avian Flu

US - USDA-NASS released numbers yesterday, and all protein categories except turkey showed cold storage volumes above year ago levels as of October 31st, write Steve Meyer and Len Steiner.
calendar icon 25 November 2015
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Starting on the beef side, frozen beef levels were 34 per cent above 2014 to total 512 million pounds. Since this data series started in 1990, for the month of October only 2002 recorded higher levels of frozen beef than this year, at 525 million pounds.

Boneless beef again accounted for the majority of the increase, up 38 per cent year-over-year and constituting 92 per cent of the total beef in Cold Storage the end of October. Cuts of beef were up 5 per cent year-over-year.

Again, the majority of this boneless beef in cold storage is thought to be imported product (manufacturing beef) from Australia.

Trade data for the month of October will come out December 7th, so it is hard to say with certainty if this is the source of the increase of boneless beef in cold storage.

Looking at the relationship in September, both boneless beef in cold storage and imports from Australia were up significantly from year ago numbers. However, Australian beef imports in September were down from the prior month, but we saw no decrease in cold storage levels as is seasonally normal this time of year.

Moving on to pork, cold storage levels were 13 per cent higher than the end of October 2014 and totalled 602.7 million pounds.

Hams, loins, ribs, and variety meats continued to see significant volume increases compared to year ago. Frozen bellies were 40 per cent below 2014 volumes, however did post the first month-to-month volume increase since April of this year.

Overall, pork in cold storage saw a significant decrease from September to October, which follows last year’s seasonal pattern. This is especially significant as October’s commercial pork production was 2 per cent higher than 2014’s.

Factors that would have created this cold storage volume shift include a favourable increase in exports as well as attractive featuring in grocery stores during the month of October. Again, we will have to wait for the trade data release to confirm this on the export side.

Total chicken in cold storage was 30 per cent higher than year ago, mainly due to increased chicken production due to heavier bird weights as well as export markets that continue to remain closed due to HPAI incidents from last fall.

All categories of chicken show tonnage significantly above year ago, except for paws and feet which are down 23 per cent. Breast meat, drumsticks, leg quarters, thigh meat, and wings are all about 30 per cent higher, legs show a 60 per cent increase, and thigh quarters have more than doubled in cold storage volume compared to October 2014.

Conversely, total turkey is down 9 per cent year-over-year, due to supply reductions from HPAI losses. Whole toms were 8 per cent lower and whole hens (what makes up the majority of Thanksgiving turkeys) are down 20 per cent from 2014.

Interestingly in the turkey complex, breasts show a 20 per cent increase and legs a 32 per cent increase in cold storage volumes compared to 2014.

Switching gears, the USDA-NASS releases their Crop Progress report on a weekly basis. The week of November 16th provided the last update on corn harvested, and reported that as of that week 96 per cent of the nation’s corn crop was harvested.

This compares to 88 per cent for the same time last year and 94 per cent for the 2010-2014 average, and indicates favourable harvesting conditions for the end of the season. Reports are that the only significant amounts of corn still standing are in Nebraska where it has not dried out enough yet.

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