Chicago | Reuters — U.S. live cattle futures fell Thursday as boxed beef prices tumbled under pressure from rising production.
Beef output has increased as meat companies increase slaughtering after temporarily closing processing plants in April and May because of outbreaks of the COVID-19 coronavirus among workers.
Processors killed an estimated 120,000 cattle on Thursday, up from 117,000 cattle a week earlier, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said. Prior to the pandemic, they killed as many as 124,000 cattle on a day.
Prices for choice cuts of boxed beef fell by $4.29, to $213.64/cwt, while select cuts slid $2.02, to $206.06/cwt, according to USDA.
Chicago Mercantile Exchange August live cattle futures settled down 0.75 cent at 96.1 cents/lb. (all figures US$). August feeder cattle futures settled down 0.6 cent at 132.975 cents/lb.
In the pork market, processors slaughtered about 460,000 hogs on Thursday, compared with 450,000 hogs a week earlier and as many as 498,000 a day before plants shut because of the outbreak, according to USDA data.
CME July lean hog futures rose 0.25 cent to 49.9 cents/lb. amid technical buying, traders said. August futures settled up 0.3 cent, at 53.475 cents.
Analysts said China could potentially reduce imports of U.S. pork as the country attempts to rebuild its hog herd after it was devastated by a deadly pig disease.
The coronavirus is also a concern in China, the world’s top pork consumer, after Chinese officials said trading sections for meat and seafood in Beijing’s wholesale food market were contaminated with the disease.
USDA said in a weekly export sales report that China bought 9,991 tonnes of U.S. pork in the week ended June 11, the biggest weekly total since April 30.
— Tom Polansek reports on agriculture and ag commodities for Reuters from Chicago.