Inventories of beef, pork and poultry in US cold storage are well below year-ago levels, according to the most recent Cold Storage Report released by the United States Department of Agriculture. Total cold stores of meat at the end of April were just 1.94 bn. lbs (882,000 t), up slightly from the March figure, but 17.5% below last year, and 10.3% lower than the five-year average.
Beef inventories were 21% lower than last year, at 402 mill lbs (182,000 t), about 90% of which is boneless beef – mostly for grinding. The last time April beef stores were lower than this was in 2010.
Total pork stores were 584 mill lbs (265,000 tonnes), 17% lower than one year previously, with hams accounting for significant proportion of this decline, while there was actually a greater store of bellies and loins.
Chicken inventories were lower across all categories, with the total volume down 15%, to 582 mill lbs (264,000 t). Interestingly, while wing stores are still above the five-year average, they are well below year-ago levels, when wing discounts were on offer across the country.
The very low stocks of meat on hand, combined with the already high prices for most categories at the retail and wholesale level, suggest there is little downside risk to meat protein prices in the US in the short to medium term. How those prices flow back through the supply chain will depend on the pace at which producers and suppliers are able to increase the flow of livestock and meat, keeping future production and breeding stocks in mind.