U.S. pork held in freezers marked a record high in the month of June, bolstered by increased hog production following industry efforts to control the deadly pig virus, experts said after the government’s monthly cold storage report on Wednesday.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) cold storage report for June showed total pork inventories at 632.2 million lbs, a record for the month that topped the 2012 June high of 592.9 million.
"Pork stocks have been high all year. And, usually big production creates big stocks," said independent industry analyst Bob Brown in Edmond, Oklahoma.
Lower feed costs along with the less-severe Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) fueled hog herd growth, resulting in a 7.2 percent rise in hog slaughter and 6.8 percent bump in pork production from January to the week ending July 18.
Total hams, the largest single number in the pork category, were at 180.7 million lbs, a record last month that surpassed June 2013's 161.6 million top, according to Missouri-based Doane Advisory Services economist Dan Vaught.
The ham comparison appears larger when made to last year's PEDv-stricken supply, said analysts. Furthermore, end-users typically stash hams into storage as early as April for Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday use, they said.
"To some extent, certainly the idea that we're going to run short on turkeys is probably encouraging ham storage as well," said Vaught.
The amount of frozen whole turkeys, including toms and hens, in June 2015 totaled 262.0 million lbs. That was up 18.7 million lbs from May, but down 6.9 million from June 2014.
Based on the 10-year average of 273.2 million lbs, the industry is down from the normal amount for this time of year due to the avian influenza outbreak that primarily hurt turkey flocks in Minnesota, Vaught said.
"We're looking at relatively short numbers, but the industry will probably aggressively work to limit any reductions by funneling more turkeys into the whole-bird category," he said.
Beef inventories in June were at 467.1 million lbs, down 9.2 million lbs from the month before but up 108.9 million lbs compared to a year earlier.
The government's beef June beef stocks belies the respective 7.0 percent and 4.7 percent year-to-date decline in slaughter and product output.
"Beef's increase versus last year appears to be in the boneless category, likely due to the huge influx of beef imports from Australia and New Zealand," Brown said.