CME: Cold Storage Report Negative for Chicken Prices

US - USDA published yesterday afternoon the results of its monthly cold storage survey, write Steve Meyer and Len Steiner.
calendar icon 25 May 2016
clock icon 4 minute read

We would view the results as generally supportive for beef prices, neutral to slightly negative for pork and negative for chicken.

Overall the report indicated that supplies of meat in cold storage remain plentiful and should help keep meat price inflation in check over the summer months.

Below are some of the highlights and implications for livestock and poultry markets:

Beef: Total beef in cold storage at the end of April was reported at 452.3 million pounds, 3.2 per cent lower than the previous month and now 6.6 per cent lower than a year ago.

It is quite impressive that the supply of beef in cold storage has been coming down even as slaughter numbers are notably higher than a year ago.

Declines in beef imports are helping clean up the burdensome stocks that were created in late 2015.

Cold storage inventories in the Middle Atlantic, South Atlantic and Pacific regions declined by 7.5 million pounds compared to the previous month, accounting for about 58 per cent of the month/month decline.

Since the beginning of the year boneless beef stocks in these regions are down some 20 million pounds (-9.8 per cent).

Beef imports will continue to run well behind year ago levels as evidenced by the reduction in shipments from Australia and New Zealand in April and May.

Uruguayan beef imports also are down and, so far, we have no indication when Brazilian plants will be certified to ship beef into the US.

Lower wholesale beef prices are helping keep the product flow moving. Producers in various production stages have become much more current.

This is critical as meat supplies continue to expand. What is lagging at this point are more aggressive price adjustments at the retail level. But that is likely in the works as well and will be manifested in lower menu prices at steady declines in the price of beef in the retail meat case.

Over the weekend we visited with a number of food service industry professionals at the NRA Show in Chicago and the mood was decidedly upbeat. Lower wholesale prices have helped bolster margins and provided more opportunities to expand product offerings.

Pork: Total pork in cold storage at the end of April was reported at 635.4 million pounds, 3.5 per cent higher than the previous month but still some 9.4 per cent lower than last year.

The April inventory build was in line with what we normally see at this time of year so we view the pork stocks number as generally neutral for the market.

The only negative were larger ham inventories, which increased at a faster pace than we normally see at this time of year. Total ham inventories were 130.2 million pounds, 35 per cent higher than the previous month but still 4.4 per cent higher than last year.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that the timing of Easter will significantly impact March-April inventory shifts.

Pork belly inventories jumped 11.6 per cent from March levels and they are no up 3.1 per cent from a year ago and 7.2 per cent higher than the five year average.

The increase in belly stocks appears to have been a precursor of the value erosion we observed in May and indicative that packers are finding demand for bellies a bit softer than they expected.

Chicken: Total chicken inventories were 806.1 million pounds, 5.3 per cent higher than a year ago and 22.1 per cent higher than the five year average.

The inventory of breast meat in cold storage remains burdensome, with that portion of the inventory now pegged at 186.5 million pounds, 23.9 per cent higher than a year ago and 44.2 per cent higher than the five year average. Another negative for chicken are very heavy wing inventories.

Total stocks were 79.1 million pounds, 76 per cent higher than last year. Improvements in export demand have helped clean up leg quarter stocks, which are now down 39 per cent from the burdensome levels last year.

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