After at least five years of annual growth, the year ahead looks like one of contraction for the U.S. meat industry.  But USDA chief economist Seth Meyer was quick to point out the contraction is only occurring in one sector.


“Pork, boilers, turkey all up year over year in 2023.  But, beef production actually down more than two billion pounds.”


Meyer said much of that beef herd contraction is due to the drought across much of the west, southwest and lower Plains.  He noted those extremely dry conditions left a lot of beef cattle producers with not enough pasture or hay in 2022 to maintain their animals, so they had to start selling early than normal, and more animals than normal.  Because of that, the U.S. beef herd is smaller now than in was in January last year.


So, what’s it going to take to turn the contraction around?


Simply, Meyer said an easing of the drought, and more available forage.


“That'll be one of the deciding factors right.  Do you have forage conditions necessary to support a herd rebuild?”


A rebuilding process, he said, that could still take almost two years to translate as greater beef production.


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