All US pork processors back online — for now


All US pork processors back online — for now

There’s been a significant increase to the nation’s hog slaughter capacity since President Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to help keep processing plants open.

Ag economist Steve Meyer with Kerns & Associates says this is the type of recovery to processing capacity the pork industry needs to see.  “If we can maintain it this week, it puts us on a little faster recovery pattern than I thought we might achieve,” he says. 

While this does help to alleviate some of the pressure on the supply chain, Meyer tells Brownfield he doesn’t think it will ever be able to fully catch up.  “We’ve probably got the better part of 2-million hogs backed up,” he says.  “I don’t think there’s any way to get out of this without euthanizing any market hogs.  Hopefully, we can minimize that by getting (capacity) back up there pretty quick.”

The industry is still unsure what slaughter capacity looks like following changes to facilities to implement social distancing measures.  Meyer says his first guess was somewhere around 90 percent of original slaughter capacity.  “I don’t think there’s any way we get back to 100 percent (of pre-COVID-19 levels),’ he says.  “I’m really hoping we get back to better than 90 percent than we’ve got this ‘more hogs than we can slaughter’ for the foreseeable future.  All the way out until September.”

Tyson’s Columbus Junction, Iowa plant started the week running at around 94 percent of its daily capacity, which Meyer says is right around the facility’s normal run rate.

On Tuesday, all of the nation’s processing plants were back online and are running at about 70 percent capacity.

AUDIO: Steve Meyer, Kerns & Associates

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