Iowa’s and America’s pig farmers will produce a record-breaking number of market hogs this year, resulting in ample supplies of pork hitting grocery stores and restaurants. It is anticipated that this high level of production will continue well into 2017.
“The U.S. economy is growing, and that is good for meat demand,” said Len Steiner, a pork industry economist. “Some key indicators of growth include the stock market recently hitting all-time record highs, increasing consumer confidence and an unemployment rate now at 4.9 percent, demonstrating the U.S. economy is at or near full employment.”
Steiner added that total meat production continues to increase, moving from 90.9 billion pounds in 2014 with expectations for meat output to exceed 101 billion pounds this year. Not since the mid-1990s has meat production increased so quickly.
“We estimate that 2016 U.S. pork production will set an all-time record just shy of 25 billion pounds, with even more pork expected to be produced in 2017,” Steiner said. “The good news is that retailers and foodservice operators feel more secure about the growing meat supply, which can translate into falling meat prices and more promotional activity.”
National Pork Board President Jan Archer, a North Carolina pig farmer, noted that the Pork Checkoff is taking a number of significant steps right now to help move the large supply of pork through the U.S. market place. Consumers can expect more pork at potentially lower prices at U.S. meat counters and in restaurants. This quarter, the Pork Checkoff has been:
- Partnering with major grocery retailers. The Pork Checkoff is working with the top 10 U.S. grocery retailers – representing 65 percent of the U.S. retail market – to feature key pork cuts. Retail promotions are underway with Walmart, Costco and Kroger, among others.
- Focusing on foodservice. The foodservice team works closely with most of the top 100 high-volume restaurant chains to share the opportunity pork presents through versatility, profitability, availability and customer appeal. A focused effort is also underway to launch pork promotions with food distributors who provide groceries to independently owned restaurants, contract foodservice providers and large, independently operated colleges and universities.
- Implementing digital marketing and online promotion. For the holidays, the Pork Checkoff launched the Make it a Moment campaign on social media to help pork stand out.
- Connecting with multicultural consumers. Latinos and African Americans are some of pork’s best customers. Building on the success of this year’s summer campaign, promotions for the fourth quarter’s Make it a Moment campaign will include a Spanish-language web site and new videos.
“The fourth quarter is consistently the strongest quarter for pork sales,” said Patrick Fleming, director of market intelligence for the National Pork Board. “In 2015, fourth-quarter pork sales totaled $3.6 billion, with the 1.125 billion pounds representing 28 percent of the sales for the entire year. The industry is prepared for a similar situation in 2016.”
Fleming added that in foodservice, pork is on trend as the fastest-growing protein.
“Pork is featured in the top three items on restaurant menus today,” Fleming said. “And it is not just main entrees like ham and pork loin, but now includes such items as candied bacon, pork belly and porchetta. Flavor, versatility and value set pork apart.”
While the high value of the U.S. dollar and competition from other countries in key export markets have curbed U.S. pork export demand, there are positive signs on the horizon.
“About 25 percent of U.S. pork production goes overseas, and we need to keep moving product to keep producers profitable,” said Becca Nepple, vice president of international trade for the National Pork Board. “Mexico, China, Japan, Korea and Canada are our big five buyers, and the Pork Checkoff, through the U.S. Meat Export Federation, continues to invest in pork promotions overseas.”
“As a pork producer, I’m very excited about the work going on behind the scenes to help producers market this much product,” Archer said. “Our goal always is to provide high-quality, delicious pork to consumers in the U.S. and around the globe.”