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Low Meat Prices Not Helped by Record Feed Costs

6 August 2012, at 8:48am

US - The unemployment rate inched up to 8.3 per cent in July. That is the highest since February and the 42nd consecutive month above eight per cent. Millions of people without jobs make it difficult to push meat prices high enough to cover record feed costs, writes Ron Plain and Scott Brown.

USDA estimates only 24 per cent of the corn crop was in good or excellent condition on July 29. That compares to 26 per cent good or excellent the week before and 62 per cent a year ago. The Crop Progress report says 29 per cent of the soybean crop was rated good or excellent on July 29 compared to 31 per cent a week earlier and 60 per cent a year ago. Next Friday, USDA will release their August crop production and price updates.

Corn prices climbed back above $8 to end the week. The September corn futures contract ended this week at $8.10/bu, up 11 cents from the week before. December corn ended the week at $8.075/bu, up 14 cents for the week. August soybean meal ended the week at $531.60/ton, up $3.90 from the previous Friday.

USDA's Thursday afternoon calculated pork cutout value was $92.78/cwt, down 13 cents from the previous Thursday and $15.32 lower than this week last year. Loins and butts were lower. Hams and bellies were higher this week with pork bellies at the highest price since August 15, 2011. It's BLT season.

Hog prices ended the week higher. The national average negotiated carcass price for direct delivered hogs on the morning report today was $90.34/cwt, up $4.23 from last Friday thanks to a big price jump in the eastern corn belt. The eastern corn belt averaged $90.37/cwt this morning. The western corn belt and Iowa-Minnesota both averaged $90.11/cwt on the morning report. This morning, the east was above the west after several weeks of lagging well below. Peoria had a top live price this morning of $57 and Zumbrota had a live top today of $60/cwt. The top for interior Missouri live hogs Friday was $64.50/cwt, up 75 cents from the previous Friday. The average hog carcass price is 97.4 per cent of the cutout value.

Hog slaughter this week totaled 2.025 million head, up 1.1 per cent from the week before, up 2.9 per cent compared to the same week last year, and above 2 million head for the second week in a row. We are at that time of year where weekly hog slaughter should continue to trend higher.

The average barrow and gilt live weight in Iowa-Minnesota last week was 265.6 pounds, down 1.5 pounds from a week earlier, down for the 8th consecutive week, but up 4.7 pounds from a year ago and above year-earlier for the 36th consecutive week. Year-to-date pork production is up 1.8 per cent.

Hog futures had a bad week. Friday's close for the August lean hog futures contract was $89.55/cwt, down $5.65 from the previous Friday. October hogs settled at $75.85/cwt, down $5.47 for the week. December hogs ended the week at $73.95/cwt, down $5.35 from the week before.