According to the latest USDA supply/demand updates, total beef production in 2013 is currently estimated at 25.19 billion pounds, 806 million pounds or 3.1 percent less than a year ago.
Beef estimates for the current year have been slowly revised higher in recent months, in part reflecting the impact of heavier carcass weights but also larger than expected cow slaughter numbers.
The first USDA forecast for 2014 pegs total U.S. beef production at nearly 24.19 billion pounds, 4 percent lower than in 2013. The decline in beef production should help support beef prices into next year.
High beef prices in the U.S. market will likely encourage more beef imports while reducing the volume of beef going to export. Beef imports in 2013 are expected to be close to 2012 levels but they are forecast to hit 2.8 billion pounds in 2014, a 10 percent increase compared with 2013 levels and the largest beef import volume since 2007.
Beef exports for 2014 are forecast at 2.3 billion pounds, down 5 percent from 2013 levels. At this point, USDA expects the U.S. to once again become a significant net beef importer.
The increase in imports will help offset only a portion of the big decline in domestic output. Per capita beef availability in the domestic retail market in 2013 is forecast at 56.1 pounds per person, 0.7 percent higher than a year ago.
Per capita beef availability in 2014 is forecast at 54.3 pounds per person, down 3.2 percent from 2013 levels and 5.4 percent lower than what it was in 2012.
While beef supplies will remain limited, USDA currently forecasts both pork and poultry production and availability to expand in 2013 and 2014. The forecast for higher output next year reflects estimates for a big rebound in U.S. corn supplies and lower feed input costs.
Corn production is currently expected to jump 31.2 percent compared with a year ago and 14.4 percent compared with two years ago.
USDA slightly lowered its estimate for U.S. pork production in 2013, but that forecast is still about 1 percent higher than 2012 levels. Producers have been able to bring more pork to market so far this year despite sharply higher feed costs.
Back in December, USDA expected 2013 pork output to contract, but a recent producer survey indicated that pork producers appear to have weathered the spike in feed costs without much long-term impact on production potential.
Total pork production for 2014 is pegged at more than 24.04 billion pounds, half a billion pounds or 2.3 percent higher than a year ago and only a few million pounds shy of U.S. beef production.
However, pork exports remain a key driver in the pork market, expected to increase 4.5 percent in 2014. As a result, per capita pork availability in 2013 and 2014 will rise by less than 1 percent.
Pennsylvania Center for Beef Excellence Inc. with information from the CME Report, Cattle Buyers Weekly and other resources. For more information, call 717-705-1689.