The number of U.S. hogs coming to market could be lower in the first half of 2023 compared with early 2022 if recent inventory patterns continue, according to a new market research report from Steiner Consulting Group.
The number of market hogs as of Dec. 1, 2022, was estimated at 66.97 million head, down 1.36 head from the same period in 2021, according to the firm’s Daily Livestock Report (DLR). The latest figures echoed the similar hog slaughter rates in October and November and, if accurate, would signal a downturn in the supply of hogs coming to market in the next few quarters vs. figures for the start of 2022, the report warned.
A seasonal shift occurs every year, but the slowdown this time could specifically impact pork products that saw strong export demand in the fall, including hams and trim, the report said.
Domestic demand will ease now that the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons have ended, but ham processors are expected to prepare for the upcoming 2023 Easter holiday, when ham returns to the dinner spotlight.
At the end of November, ham inventories were nearly 40% lower than the five-year average, and ham inventory at the end of December could be even lower than the previous month, possibly at 50 million pounds, the DLR said.