The estimated commercial hog slaughter was near year-ago levels, while pork production was up almost 2 percent because the average hog carcass weights increased from 204 to 208 pounds.
Interestingly, higher weights occurred in spite of an 85 percent increase in corn prices compared to the first quarter of last year.
Leading U.S. export markets for pork include Japan, with 30 percent of the market, followed by Mexico at 24 percent, Canada with 10 percent and South Korea about 5 percent.
In January, pork exports to Japan were up almost 23 percent from last year. Pork exports to Mexico were unchanged, Canada down 5 percent and South Korea up a whopping 144 percent. South Korea’s worst foot and mouth disease outbreak in history resulted in the depopulation of about 30 percent of the 10 million head swine herd. Pork is the leading meat consumed in Korea, so more pork imports were required to offset the decline in domestic production.
Another indication of the strong pork export market is the increase in value of byproducts, such as lard, which receive premium prices in foreign markets. The hog byproduct value on a live animal basis has risen to about $5.20/cwt, compared with $4.50 last year and a five-year average of about $3.60 for this time of year.