The U.S. Department of Agriculture said it expects daily cattle and hog slaughter reports that were halted a week ago will be available again “as soon as possible.”
Agriculture Department agencies that track and compile slaughter statistics from U.S. packing plants, including the Food Safety and Inspection Service, are working to have the numbers posted shortly, USDA spokesman Matt Herrick said in a May 4 e-mail.
“We hope to have the information available online as soon as possible,” Herrick said.
The USDA didn’t say why it stopped releasing the reports, which are closely followed by livestock industry traders and analysts as gauges of beef and pork supplies and demand.
Daily reports including “Actual Slaughter under Federal Inspection” and “U.S. Federally Inspected Slaughter by Region” haven’t been issued since April 28. The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Services, which releases those reports, offered only a brief explanation on its website: http://1.usa.gov/iyQEre
“The slaughter data for this report is currently unavailable, and it is not known when the issue will be resolved” the service said. “This report will be released again after the data is available.”
Another USDA report, “Cow Slaughter Under Federal Inspection,” also has not been released since April 28.
Analysts say the absence of these slaughter numbers over the long term will lead to an information void that will make it more difficult to assess market conditions and direction.
“We… are deeply concerned about this disruption in the flow of some very important data,” livestock analysts Steve Meyer and Len Steiner said in a May 3 report.
“The missing reports and data should not have major impacts in the short run but, over a longer period, the consequences could be serious,” the analysts said. “These are critical data for many economic models used by market participants all the way from producers to retailers to restaurateurs to traders.”
U.S. hog slaughter this year through the end of April totaled 35.8 million head, down 1.5 percent from the same period last year, according to a separate USDA report. Over the same period, cattle slaughter totaled 10.8 million head, little-changed compared to last year.