US Swine Economics Report

Regular report by Ron Plain on the US Swine industry, this week discussing the record hog slaughter.
calendar icon 6 September 2006
clock icon 3 minute read
Ron Plain
Ron Plain

Today's hog slaughter is a record 416,000 head. The old record for biggest daily hog slaughter was 411,088 on December 16, 2004.

Normally, records come as something of a surprise. That was not the case today. The cooler weather of late summer usually brings with it an increase in hog slaughter. Because yesterday was a holiday, only 3,000 hogs rather than the typical 390-400 thousand were slaughtered. Thus, there are plenty of hogs available to allow packers to run flat out today through Friday. Even then, Saturday's slaughter is likely to exceed 200,000 head.

U.S. daily hog slaughter capacity is up sharply to over 420,000 head. The jump is largely due to the opening of the Triumph Foods plant at St Joseph, Missouri. Like most large hog slaughter plants, this one is designed to slaughter 1,000 hogs per hour. The plant began operating in January and added a second kill shift last month.

In addition to the Triumph plant, several older plants have added to their slaughter capacity since last year. Premium Standard, Hormel, and Indiana Packers have recently increased, or are in the process of increasing, their slaughter capacity. This expansion is important for hog producers. In the fall of 1998, slaughter capacity fell short of the desired level of hog movement resulting in disastrously low hog prices.

It is likely that today's record will be broken several more times this fall. Fourth quarter hog slaughter in 2005 totaled a record 27.725 million head. Based on the September inventory of market hogs, fourth quarter 2006 slaughter is expected to be up 0.9% from last year's level.

In both 2004 and 2005, weekly hog slaughter exceeded 2 million head each non-holiday week from Labor Day to Christmas. There is normally a significant level of Saturday hog slaughter during the fall of the year. Since having employees work on Saturday entails paying overtime wages, packers usually want to push up weekday slaughter in order to avoid the extra labor cost associated with operating on the weekend.

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