Industry consolidation is a concern among beef producers, but a look at the pork industry shows an even more dramatic trend. The 2001 Pork Industry Structure Study, sponsored in part by Pork magazine, reveals that the 20 largest firms marketed 33.3 million hogs in 2000, nearly 35 percent of domestic hog slaughter, which totaled 95.9 million head.

The study, conducted by agricultural economists John Lawrence of Iowa State University and Glenn Grimes of the University of Missouri, measured several key demographic and economic trends in the pork industry. These trends can have a significant impact on beef producers, both in terms of pork as a competing meat and as a model for future trends in the beef industry.

According to the survey report, producers marketing at least 5,000 hogs annually account for about 80 percent of the total.

Hog numbers were down in 1997 following liquidation by producers in response to high corn prices in 1996. Hog marketings during 2000 topped the 1997 figure by 19 million head. The continuing growth of large hog operations comes largely at the expense of smaller farms, and researchers note that, in general, the categories representing producers marketing less than 5,000 head per year are losing farms and production.

The overall expansion is likely to continue. All size categories indicated that they plan to grow into 2003, especially the larger operations. The 2,000 up to 9,999 group plan to grow 8 percent from 2001 to 2003. Firms producing 50,000 hogs or more plan 13 percent growth. Researchers note that the data do not clearly indicate whether the projected increases account for productivity gains that have averaged 4 percent to 5 percent in recent years or whether the plans include hog numbers alone.

Survey results also show, how-ever, that producers do not always follow through with plans to expand. In 1997, producers raising fewer than 5,000 hogs planned to expand 6 percent to 15 percent by 2000. But the 2000 survey shows that their marketings actually dropped by 20 percent to 27 percent during that period. Most significantly though, producers raising more than 50,000 hogs a year grew signi-ficantly more than they projected in 1997.