U.S. meat production is growing more slowly than previously expected. Many analysts have trimmed their estimates and USDA, in the latest monthly estimates, reduced forecasts for 2017 beef, pork and poultry production from earlier levels. 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. Per capita retail beef consumption is projected to increase less than one percent while pork and broiler consumption may be slightly lower year over year.
2017 broiler production is currently projected to increase 2.0 percent over 2016 levels. However, a projected 7.5 to 8 percent year over year increase in broiler exports will hold net production increases to less than one percent from the perspective of the domestic market. April broiler exports were down 4.5 percent but year to date broiler export totals are up 5.4 percent 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 percent in 2017 compared to one year ago. Lower hog carcass weights in recent weeks have moderated year over year production growth. Growing pork exports (projected up 7 percent year over year) combined with slightly less pork imports is projected to hold net pork production increases to less than one percent in 2017. Year to date pork exports are up 14.6 percent 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.
Beef production is currently projected to increase 3.4 percent year over year. Cattle slaughter for the year to date is still running about 6 percent 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 percent 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 the year. Beef exports are projected to increase about 7 percent year over year while beef imports are projected to decrease about 12 percent. So far this year beef exports are up 20.2 percent year over year while beef imports are down 10.9 percent. This modifies the projected production increase to a net year over year increase of just over one percent. Per capita retail beef consumption is projected to increase less than one percent to 55.9 pounds compared to 55.5 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 percent year over year but increased meat exports and reduced meat imports is holding net production increases to about one percent higher than last year. Trade of each of the meats is important to all the meats to moderate domestic meat supplies and price pressure in the domestic market.