Tag Archives: Pork

Underpinned by record production, U.S. pork exports completed a tremendous first quarter with new March records for volume and value, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). Beef exports also trended higher year-over-year in March, establishing a record first quarter pace.

“March export results were very solid, especially given the COVID-19 related headwinds facing customers in many international markets at that time,” said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “Stay-at-home orders created enormous challenges for many countries’ foodservice sectors, several key currencies slumped against the U.S. dollar and logistical obstacles surfaced in some key markets – yet demand for U.S. red meat proved very resilient.”

Some recent events, including temporary closures of several U.S. processing plants, are not reflected in the first quarter export data. Halstrom cautioned that April and May exports could slow as a result, but his outlook for 2020 remains positive.

“These are truly unprecedented circumstances, creating an uncertain global business climate,” Halstrom explained. “The U.S. meat industry has spent decades developing a loyal and well-informed customer base throughout the world, which has embraced the quality and value delivered by U.S. red meat. Their commitment to U.S. products during this crisis is much-appreciated.”

Strong demand from China/Hong Kong continued to drive U.S. pork exports to new heights, but March exports also increased significantly to Mexico, Japan and Canada. Export volume reached 291,459 metric tons (mt), up 38% from a year ago and topping the previous record set in December 2019. Export value increased 47% to $764.2 million. Through the first quarter, pork exports increased 40% from a year ago to 838,118 mt, valued at $2.23 billion (up 52%).

Pork export value per head slaughtered reached $63.99 in March, up 32% from a year ago. The January-March per head average was $64.66, up 40%. March exports accounted for 31.6% of total pork production and 28.4% for pork muscle cuts – each up about six percentage points from a year ago, even as March production increased by 12%. Through the first quarter, exports accounted for 31.4% of total pork production and 28.5% for muscle cuts, up from 24.4% and 21.3%, respectively, in 2019. U.S. pork production was up 9% in the first quarter, with industry expansion fueled by strong international demand, especially in several key Asian markets still battling African swine fever (ASF).

Driven by solid growth in Japan, where U.S. beef is benefiting from reduced tariffs under the U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement, as well as South Korea, Mexico, Canada and Taiwan, March beef exports totaled 115,308 mt, up 7% from a year ago, valued at $702.2 million – up 4% and the highest monthly value since July. First quarter beef exports climbed 9% from a year ago to 334,703 mt, valued at $2.06 billion (up 8%).

Beef export value per head of fed slaughter was $308.21 in March, down 8% from the very high March 2019 average. For the first quarter, per-head export value increased 2% to $317.06. March beef exports accounted for 13.9% of total production and 11.3% for beef muscle cuts, down from 14.8% and 12%, respectively, a year ago. Exports accounted for 14% of first quarter beef production and 11.4% for muscle cuts, each up slightly year-over-year. U.S. beef production increased by 14% in March and 8% in the first quarter as export growth continued to make a critical contribution to carcass value even as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the global foodservice sector.

USMEF’s full first quarter summary for U.S. pork, beef and lamb exports, including market-specific highlights, is available online.

The USDA estimated beef and pork production last week was down 65 percent from a year ago, as Covid-19 has meatpacking facilities closing or scaling back on beef and pork production.

Panhandle Pig in Scotts Bluff County, Neb. is also feeling the effects of the meatpacking crisis, as Smithfield has canceled their truckloads. The company has a plant in Crete, Neb., which was going to shut down, but has remained open. 

“With their big producers, they can reduce them by like 40 percent,” said Mario Zavala, an owner-partner at Panhandle Pig. “We only send one or two (truckloads) per week, so they canceled our shipments to them entirely.”  

Hog farms in the U.S. take pigs from birth to maturity with little disruption. Panhandle Pig inseminates its sows, and every week there is a new litter being born. The piglets go to the nursery where they mature until they are about 50 pounds and then move to the finishing sites. 

Covid-19 has disrupted the flow, as the meatpacking facilities are closing or scaling back with workers falling ill with the virus. 

Zavala said the problem now is where to send the hogs, which are ready for the packing facilities since space for a new batch is needed. 

To save waste, Zavala said they are trying to slow the pig’s growth.

“We’re okay with keeping the rooms warmer, and they don’t eat as much; that’s one way to slow their growth,” he said. “I’ve been looking for someone to purchase the younger pigs, and we may have found someone to buy them.”

Uncertainty surrounds Covid-19, and Zavala said only a vaccine or some other solution, which could guarantee worker’s safety, will see the packing facilities running at full force again. 

Panhandle Pig, like many businesses, has also had to adjust its workforce.

“I’ve had to reduce hours and inform everyone we’re going to have to tighten our belts, and the last thing we want to do is let anyone go,” he said. “So, we don’t have people losing their jobs, that’s the main thing.”

Panhandle Pig is also selling pigs to the public.

For more information, contact Zavala at 303-868-9484.


Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue says meatpacking plants that have been slowed or shut down due to coronavirus will open again in days, not weeks. Slaughterhouse employees are set to receive additional protective gear and will have access to COVID-19 testing “virtually immediately.”

The Hill Dot Com says Perdue expects the shortfall in meat production is likely as high as 30 percent but will drop to between 10 and 15 percent within 10 days. However, Perdue does say that production likely won’t return to the pre-pandemic pace as new safety procedures are put in place to reduce the spread of coronavirus. “There will be some less production, some inefficiency based on line speeds, some employees that will not be able to come back to work,” Perdue says. “We want to assure the workers and their community of their safety.”

As the virus continued to spread across the country, more than a dozen meat processing plants have been temporarily shut down due to outbreaks. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union reported at least 6,500 workers who had directly been affected by the coronavirus, as well as 20 deaths at plants across the country. The USDA will require processors to submit plans to operate packing facilities safely and review those measures with local officials.

President Donald Trump Tuesday announced an executive order to keep meatpacking plants open during the COVID-19 pandemic. The President will use the Defense Production Act to order companies to stay open as critical infrastructure, as meatpacking plants over the past couple of weeks closed with spikes in coronavirus cases among employees.

The plan allows the federal government to supply additional personal protective equipment to meat processing facilities, according to Bloomberg News. The supply chain slowdown presents dire factors for farmers, with poultry and pork producers left with no alternative other than euthanizing animals.

The order will affect processing plants for beef, chicken, eggs and pork. Republican U.S. Senators from Iowa, Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, this week, urged the administration to invoke the Defense Production Act. The Senators asked for assistance for processing plants, assistance for euthanizing animals, indemnity payments for depopulation costs and mental health assistance for all affected.

The impact of COVID-19 could cost the pork industry a collective five-billion dollars in losses through the end of this year. National Pork Producers Council President A-V Roth from Wisconsin says the suspension of pork packing plant operations and rising employee absenteeism due to COVID-19 has exacerbated an existing harvest facility capacity challenge due to a labor shortage in rural America…

The suspension of pork packing plant operations and rising employee absenteeism due to COVID-19 has exacerbated a problem for pork producers. With limited harvest capacity, a surplus of pigs exists. Michael Formica – National Pork producers Council Assistant Vice President, Domestic Policy – says they have been working with E-P-A on ways to keep the backlog of hogs on farms….

An economist with Iowa State University estimates that hog farmers will lose nearly $37 per hog for each hog marketed for the rest of the year. Dr. Dermot Hayes calculations point to a five billion dollar impact collectively this year. National Pork Producers Council Vice President of Industry Relations Dallas Hockman says they are asking USDA for immediate help, particularly a one billion dollar purchase of pork products that were headed for the foodservice sector…

Roth says the pork industry is based on a just-in-time inventory system. Hogs are backing up on farms with nowhere to go, leaving farmers with few choices. He’s asking the federal government to make equitable support payments to all pork producers, and make farmers eligible for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.

Read more on this here:  http://nppc.org/hog-farmers-face-covid-19-financial-crisis/.