Beef producers continue to benefit from strong demand, but growing supplies of pork and poultry will provide strong competition in the meat case during the next year. That growth, however, will be modest compared with some previous years.

Poultry production continued to grow in 2000, according to the Livestock Marketing Information Center, but the increase in U.S. production was just 2 percent, compared with an average annual increase of nearly 5 percent throughout the 1990s.

LMIC predicts that broiler production will continue to post modest increases through much of 2001. Industry forecasts for 2001 put broiler production 2 percent above 2000.

On the pork side, LMIC reports that sow slaughter in 2000 will be well below 1999's.

Through the last week in November, no week in 2000 posted a larger sow slaughter number than the corresponding week in 1999. Smaller slaughter numbers, however, do not necessarily mean that hog producers are engaged in rapid expansion. Breeding herds started the year at historically low numbers, and sow slaughter as a percentage of the breeding herd has remained within the normal range.

LMIC analysts expect the breeding hog population estimate for Dec. 1, 2000, to be released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on December 28, to be above year ago levels. The breeding hog population, however, will remain at least 8 percent below the high levels posted in 1997.

Hog slaughter during 2001 will increase over 2000 levels, driving pork prices somewhat lower as beef production begins to decline.