USDA’s monthly cold storage report showed cold storage of beef, pork, chicken and turkey was up 3.2% from the same month last year and 7.7% higher than the five-year average coming in at 2.23 billion pounds.
The reason for the increase? Cold storage for pork grew 15% at 580.9 million pounds and chicken increased 9.1% at 936.4 million pounds. Beef and turkey were 481.0 and 233.1 million pounds, for December, down 2.9% and 23.0%, respectively.
“The elevated levels of pork in cold storage are primarily due to bellies, loins, and, to a lesser extent, hams,” said Len Steiner in his Daily Livestock Report.
For December 2019, pork bellies were 65.0 million pounds, up 6.0% from the same month last year while pork loins were up 45.6% to 49.7 million pounds.
In 2019, pork bellies came in above last year except for two months, March and April. Similarly, loins have been above last year each month except for January and February, he said.
Total hams (bone-in and boneless) in cold storage were 85.0 million pounds, up 16.2% from last year. Steiner said this is likely due to the slower pace of shipments to Mexico.
For 2019, total beef in cold storage came in below last year’s levels each month except for January and February. Beef cuts for December were 30.1 million pounds, down 10.3% from last year, making each month of 2019 below last year’s level.
“The low beef supplies in cold storage is an indication of strong beef demand,” Steiner said. “This is impressive given 2019 total commercial cattle slaughter was 33.55 million head (up 1.7%), the highest since 2011, and commercial beef production was a record at 27.2 billion pounds.”
Meanwhile, the increase in total chicken in cold storage is largely due to a rise in chicken leg quarters, Steiner explained. December chicken leg quarters were 81.6 million pounds, up 32.8% from last year. In 2019, nearly 50% of total U.S. broiler exports each month were comprised of leg quarters.
“China lifted its ban on U.S. poultry in November 2019,” Steiner said. “That same month, 92.8% of U.S. shipments to China were leg quarters (about 2.6 million pounds). Much of the increase of chicken and leg quarters in cold storage could potentially be product staged for shipment.”
Official trade statistics for December will give better insights to the rise of chicken in cold storage, he added.
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