Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 13

inability to hedge cattle meant they placed far
fewer cattle in March and April than in 2019.
This left 517,000 more cattle outside feedlots
on April 1 than a year earlier. May placements
were likely higher than last year, but June
placements might be lower.
Should placements from March through
June average 15% lower than last year, more
than 1 million more cattle than last year
will eventually have to be placed and fed.
Placements will be more tightly bunched
than normal, which will mean a bunching of
marketings from early next January on. The
beef sector might not see an orderly flow of
cattle until well into next spring.
Meanwhile, the reduction in cattle
slaughter levels began the first week of April.
The last week of March saw a 684,835 head kill
(93% of capacity). It had declined to a historic
low of 438,614 head the week ended May 2,
which was 60% of capacity. These numbers
reflected at least eight temporary plant
closures and growing absenteeism by workers
unwilling to return to plants. This also meant
that cash live cattle prices fell to $96.69 per
cwt live in the week ended April 26, down 24%
on the same week last year.
Kills however picked up as packers
implemented multiple measures to keep their
workers protected and reassure them that
plants were safe. Weekly cattle slaughter
levels reached an estimated 555,000 head the
third week of May (76% of capacity) and cash
live cattle prices had advanced to as high as
$120 per cwt live. But kills were lower again
in the last week because of the Memorial Day
holiday. So, an estimated 1 million cattle that
should have been shipped were backed up in
feedlots on June 1. Such forecasts prompted a
group of cattle feeders to propose a set-aside
program in which cattle feeders would be
paid to put a certain number of cattle on a
maintenance diet for 75 days.
The third impact on the beef sector
emerged in April. USDA data showed that
USDA's All Fresh beef price averaged $6.22 per
pound, up 26¢ from March. The Choice price
averaged $6.44, up 39¢. Both prices were up
6% to 7% from a year ago, the biggest year-onyear increase in retail beef prices in decades.
Wholesale beef prices skyrocketed through
the third week of May, with USDA's weekly
comprehensive cutout averaging $421.80 per

cwt. This was up 94% on the same week last
year. May retail beef prices were likely far
higher as well and will be for some months. As
the highest-priced meat, beef sales are bound
to suffer, analysts say.
The pork sector's biggest impact came in
a decline in live hog prices as a result of at
least nine pork processing plants temporarily
closing. Plants ran at only 56% of national
capacity the week ended May 2, but were back
at 77% three weeks later. Hog prices took a
huge hit. The national negotiated cash price
averaged $53 per cwt the week ended March
15, fell to $33.76 per cwt the week ended April
26 and moved only slightly higher in May.
With a backlog of an estimated 3 million
hogs in barns, the DOJ on May 15 approved a
plan developed by the National Pork Producers
Council for the orderly euthanasia of what
the organization called "an overwhelming
oversupply of live hogs." Capacity restrictions
at pork packing plants necessitated the
euthanasia of approximately 700,000 head per
week, it said.
The beef sector was easily the hardest hit
in terms of lost production. Its total for the
year to May 23 was down 4.8% on last year.
Pork production was down 0.5% while chicken
production was up 4.4%. Ironically, chicken's
biggest issue since the start of the pandemic
has been over-production relative to demand
and thus sharply lower wholesale prices.

Workspace dividers
keep workers separated
at Tyson's plant in
Rogers, Ark.

www.meatpoultry.com | 06.20 | MEAT+ POULTRY

13


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Meat+Poultry - June 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Meat+Poultry - June 2020

Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 1
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - FC - 1
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - FC - 2
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 1
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 2
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 3
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 4
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 5
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 6
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 7
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 8
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 9
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 10
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 11
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 12
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 13
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 14
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 15
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 16
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 17
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 18
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - VDG - 1
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - VDG - 2
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 19
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 20
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 21
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 22
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 23
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Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 25
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 26
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 27
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 28
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 29
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 30
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