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Meat Market Update


USDA’s Sept 24 quarterly Hogs & Pigs report continued to show record large inventories: total hogs @ 79.1 mill head, up 0.7% from 2019; market hogs @ 72.8 mill, +0.8%; June-Aug pig crop -3.5% @ 35.1 mill; breeding herd -1.5% (a smaller decrease than expected; Sept’s breeding herd, although down from 2019, was steady with 2018 and the highest since the 1990s. The increase in heavy market hogs inventory was even larger than recent yr-over-yr increases in hog slaughter, reflecting measures producers have taken to slow hog wt growth along with the backlog of hogs resulting from labor constraints at the plants. Slaughter was higher Jan-March, and exceeded yr-ago levels in June after the covid-19 disruptions, but dipped below 2019 levels for the last 3 wks; the tight labor supply will constrain slaughter in Q4, which sees the largest slaughter levels of the yr, and yr-to-date is +1.7% from 2019, with production +2.6%. USDA’s 2020 forecast is production to be record up at 12.81 mill MT, +2.2%, with 2021 +0.7% to 12.90 mill MT.

USDA forecasts exports @ 27% of cut production in 2020 and 2021, up from 23% in 2019. Hog futures jumped early Sept after news of ASF in Germany and are trading the highest since before covid-19.

Pork cutout has been higher for the last 4 wks and was +$0.90/lb., +27% from 2019, and the highest mostly since 2017 (when belly/bacon summer demand drove it higher).

Primals were up yr-o-yr for belly ($1.50/lb., +43%), ham ($0.86, +39%), picnic ($0.62, +27%), rib ($1.32, +21%), and loin ($0.76, +12%) and down for shoulder butt ($0.83, -1%).

Prices were supported by retail features for Oct Pork Month, yr-end holiday seasonal demand, export demand, and limited labor at the plants for boning lines.

Wholesale $ were up from 2019 for 72% trim boxed ($0.99, +36%), med trimmed spareribs ($1.37, +30%), rollout bnls hams boxed ($1.64, +27%), derind bellies ($2.53, +22%), St. Louis spareribs ($2.33, +22%), bnls sirloins ($1.18, +22%), 42% trim boxed ($0.80, +19%), picnic cushion ($1.19, +18%), heavy B-in hams ($0.70, +12%), tenderloins ($1.93, +9%), loins ($0.86, +7%), bnls butts ($1.25, +5%); but lower for B-in butts ($0.93, -14%).


The pandemic has exacerbated the tight labor supply situation at beef plants esp. with distancing & precautionary measures, has prevented slaughter from fully getting back to 2019 levels.

Since Aug, cattle slaughter has averaged -0.4% from 2019, and yr-to-date is -3.7%; heavier carcass wts resulted in higher production, averaging +3% yr-o-yr, with yr-to-date production only -1.3%. USDA’s Sept forecast shows production slightly down from 2019’s record to 12.27 mill MT, -0.4%; they expect 2021 to be record large at 12.41 mill MT, +1.1%.

Cattle on feed was record large for Sept @ 11.4 mill head, +4% from 2019. With the slaughter rebound from June thru Aug, the no. of slaughter-ready cattle in feedlots decreased, but the supply of cattle on feed in Sept over 150 days was +21% from 2019.

The % of fed beef grading Choice & Prime are at record levels: Prime @ 10.2%, +8.3% from 2019; Choice at 72.9%, +71.3% (with Upper 2/3rds Choice at 32.7% of Choice production, +32.2%). After moving seasonally lower during the 1st 3 wks of Sept, the Choice cutout was $2.17/lb., +1% from 2019: wholesale prices higher for loin ($3.00/lb., +10%) & chuck ($1.75, +3%); rib ($3.67) steady; short plate ($1.39, -4%), round ($1.71, -5%), flank ($1.03, -6%), and brisket ($1.60, -20%) lower vs. 2019. Choice tenderloins are up since mid-July ($11.18, +11%)–usually seasonally higher to mid-Nov, and ribeyes ($8,40, +3%) usually higher thru Oct, while NY strip prices go lower in Sept ($5.86, +4%) moving seasonally lower into Q4. Prime ribeyes were $11.98/lb. for Sept 25, -19% from 2019 when prices increased after the plant fire, but above 2017 and 2018 levels as recent increases in Prime production have led to larger sales of Prime beef at U.S. retail. For the wk ending Sept 25, domestic 90% beef trim prices were below year-ago levels for the third wk at $2.14/lb.–the lowest since March 2019, as less demand from school lunch programs pressured prices with about half of U.S. students learning virtually in 2020. 50% beef trim prices increased for the second week but remained well below yr-ago levels at $0.48/lb., down 24% from last year.


The net carcass price has been above 2019 levels all yr; in Sept, it was higher on lower production, but with a slowdown in high-end foodservice demand, racks were lower. Sept 25, carcasses ave. $3.67/lb., +5% from 2019.

Choice/Prime lamb cuts were higher yr-o-yr for 4”x4” loins ($6.52, +29%), 1”x1” loins ($7.94, +23%), and B-in square cut shoulders ($3.46, +5%); bnls legs (BRT) ($5.05) were steady; and lower for partial bnls legs (trotter off) ($5.04, -1%), med racks ($8.03, -4%), B-in legs (trotter off) ($3.70, -4%), Frenched racks ($15.31, -7%), and square-cut bnls shoulders ($5.22, -9%).

Production was -8.2% from 2019 at 92.2 mill pounds, while slaughter was -7.2% at 1.392 mill head. Jan – May production was -10.6% from 2019; June production was +9.7%, July was -0.9% yr-o-yr with the closure of the Mountain States Rosen plant, and Aug -14.4%, but the new Colorado Lamb Processors slaughter (only) plant should open this month and Double J Meat Packing will reopen the Ranchers’ Lamb of TX San Angelo plant soon which slaughters and fabricates.

For more lamb details, see the links at the following USDA website:

  • Beefjito Cocktail Recipe: 10 mint leaves, 2 oz white rum, juice of 1 lime, 1 oz simple syrup, and club soda
  • Kimchi Arancini: deep-fried risotto balls with kimchi, mozzarella, Parmesan and Sriracha sold alongside pumpkin and bacon skewrers with dill, yogurt and duck fat.
  • Skewered mini corn dogs served with a side of ketchup and IPA mustard
  • Bacon Steak: thick bacon with 5-spice powder and soy caramel
  • Pimento Cheeseburger: burger topped with pimento cheese and bacon-onion marmalade & fried egg
  • Mongolian potstickers: pan-fried dumplings stuffed with spiced beef filling; served with sweet-savory sauce
  • Pulled Pork Mac Stack: ½ lb. BBQ pulled pork over mac and cheese, with a cheddar cornbread waffle topped with maple butter
  • Chili Cheese Tamales: shredded beef encased in masa and topped with chili and cheese
  • Rock & Pizza Roll: 15” long dough roll stuffed with cheese and pepperoni and served with marinara sauce
  • The Balboa: thinly sliced steak, mushrooms, bacon strips and Cheez Whiz on a hero roll.
  • Roast Beef, Cheddar & Hummus Wrap with banana peppers, lettuce & tomato on a pressed flour tortilla
  • Carolina Classic Burger topped with chili, diced onions, mustard and cole slaw
  • Pastrami Bao Buns: slow-cooked pork belly with liquid smoke and pastrami spices topped with pickled cucumbers and a sweet-savory sauce in a bao bun
  • Smoked Bologna Sliders: smoked bologna in S. Carolina BBQ mustard glaze with pickles and coleslaw
  • Stoney Bologna: kielbasa sausage topped with grilled mortadella sausage, pepper jack cheese, crushed Funyuns, grilled onions, jalapeños and jalapeño-cilantro aioli
  • The Saucy Sandwich: Braised beef shank and fried cheese served in a scallion pancake with chicken broth on side
  • Mexico City classic pambazo with chorizo, cabbage slaw and salsa escabeche for dipping
  • Lamb Manti (Kurdish dumplings): lamb marinated in olive oil, lemon zest, dried harissa, cilantro, mint, parsley before grinding then stuffing in dumplings which were roasted then steamed in chicken stock; served with whipped curds and whey with mint. Note: winner of the 15th Annual American Lamb Cook-off
  • Bloody Mary Bacon: a thick cut & seasoned with Bloody Mary ingredients like tomato powder and Tabasco


September 2020

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