US meat production is growing more slowly than previously expected and that's good news.
Many analysts have trimmed their estimates, and in its latest monthly estimates USDA also reduced forecasts for 2017 beef, pork and poultry production from earlier expectations. Total red meat and poultry production is expected to total near 100 billion pounds, a new record level. However, slower growth in meat production, combined with improving trade balances for all meats, is holding meat consumption estimates close to year ago levels.
Trade of each of the meats is important to all the meats to moderate domestic meat supplies and price pressure in the domestic market.
Per capita retail beef consumption is projected to increase less than 1% while pork and broiler consumption may be slightly lower, year over year.
Beef production is currently projected to increase 3.4% year-over-year. Cattle slaughter for the year to date is still running about 6% higher, year-over-year, but slaughter rates for most classes of cattle have moderated recently and are expected to have smaller year-over-year increases in the second half of 2017. Sharply lower carcass weights so far this year have held year-to-date beef production increases to roughly 4% over year-earlier levels. Beef carcass weights appear to have bottomed seasonally but may remain below year-ago levels for much of the remainder of 2017. Beef exports are projected to increase about 7% year-over-year, while beef imports are projected to decrease about 12%. So far this year beef exports are up 20.2% year-over-year while beef imports are down 10.9%. This modifies the projected production increase to a net year-over-year increase of just over 1%. Per capita retail beef consumption is projected to increase less than 1% to 55.9 pounds compared with 55.5 pounds in 2016.
Broiler production for 2017 is currently projected to increase 2% over 2016 levels. However, a projected 7.5% to 8% year-over-year increase in broiler exports will hold net production increases to less than 1% from the perspective of the domestic market. April broiler exports were down 4.5% but-to-date broiler export totals are up 5.4% year over year. Mexico is a key broiler export market and will likely be a key to reaching annual export projections. Retail broiler consumption in 2017 is projected at 89.3 pounds per capita, down fractionally from the 2016 level of 89.6 pounds.
Expansion continues in the pork industry, with pork production projected to increase nearly 3% in 2017 compared with one year ago. Lighter hog carcass weights in recent weeks have moderated year-over-year production growth. Growing pork exports (projected up 7% year over year) combined with slightly less pork imports is projected to hold net pork production increases to less than 1% in 2017. Year-to-date pork exports are up 14.6% from year-ago levels. Retail per-capita pork consumption is projected at 49.8 pounds in 2017 compared to the 50.0 pounds in 2016.
Total 2017 red meat and poultry consumption (including veal, lamb, other poultry and turkey) is projected at 214.3 pounds per capita, up fractionally year-over-year, and the highest level since 2008. Total meat production is projected to increase 2.9% year-over-year but increased meat exports and reduced meat imports is holding net production increases to about 1% higher than last year.