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May 2021 US Cold Storage report shows declines in beef and other meat supplies

30 June 2021

The most recent Cold Storage report from the US shows that stocks of red meat and poultry have declined alongside supplies of chilled fruit, according to AFBF market analysis.

The latest Cold Storage report from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, released this week, shows depressed levels of red meat and poultry as well as a marked decrease in total fruit stocks. The monthly report shows the end-of-month volume of commodities in freezer storage throughout the US. 

Meat and poultry in cold storage

At the end of May, total cold storage stocks of meat and poultry (excluding duck) came in at slightly above 2 billion pounds. This is approximately 190 million pounds, or 9%, below a year ago. All meat and poultry categories showed a year-over-year decline, with chicken declining the most.

Total levels of red meat and poultry have been down since the height of the pandemic last year when packing plants were severely disrupted by the, leading to a decline in production and consumer panic buying. Total levels of animal protein followed the typical seasonal pattern through the rest of 2020 but began to diverge from the expected in February 2021. Normally, stocks would begin to rebuild this time of year, but instead cold storage levels have been declining for the last several months.

Total beef in cold storage was reported at 414 million pounds at the end of May. This is just over 3 million pounds below May 2020, amounting to a 1% year-over-year decline. This is mostly driven by an 8-million-pound drop in boneless beef in storage, as bone-in beef increased by over 4 million pounds. Beef in cold storage has largely remained immune to pandemic disruptions over the last year, maintaining its overall levels while following typical seasonal patterns.

Summary

USDA’s latest Cold Storage report shows the animal protein supply chain still struggling with the impacts of COVID-19. At the end of May, total cold storage stocks of meat and poultry (excluding duck) came in at slightly above 2 billion pounds. This is approximately 190 million pounds, or 9%, below a year ago. The story in cold storage so far in 2021 is largely a chicken story, with the overall declines in red meat and poultry mostly being driven by a 130-million-pound reduction in chicken in cold storage. 



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