The comments came after the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) forecast earlier this month that American commercial pork production was set to reach 23.9 billion pounds for the year ending September 2015, exceeding the country’s beef output for the first time in 62 years.
The forecast in USDA’s World Agriculture Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) said a "greater number of hogs will be available for slaughter during 2015", adding: "Increased pork production will also be supported by higher carcase weights."
The USDA projected US beef output at 23.8 billion pounds for the 2015 fiscal year ending in September, recording a 2.3% drop compared to the year before.
Experts speaking to GlobalMeatNews all agreed US pork production was rising, although Paragon Economics president and a National Pork Board consultant Steve Meyer said: "Pork output will indeed grow, but potentially at a rate less than USDA estimates."
He said the breeding herd was 1.8% larger on 1 September (year-on-year this year) and will probably grow to December and in 2015. Based on this, he added: "We expect some improvement in pigs-saved-per litter as the industry learns how to address PEDv." And he noted that he did not expect the disease to return to the levels of 2012 and early 2013. With the disease slacking off, he said 2014 first-quarter slaughterings were unchanged from 2013, but Q2 to Q4 slaughterings were approximately 4% higher.
As a result, he argued: "Weights will not increase much [in 2015], if any, from their very high levels of this year. I expect the industry will add 2% to output in Q1 2015, and 1% thereafter." Over six million pigs in the USA died last year due to the deadly virus.
Dr Dermot Hayes, a professor of economics and finance from Iowa State University, said: "Large US pork production, due to the reduced impact of PEDv as well as growth in sows and sow productivity, should cause pork prices to fall and make the US a competitive export supplier." And he expected pork exports for calendar year 2015 to be 5% greater than for 2014.
The National Pork Board of the USA welcomed the projected growth, especially as a new tailor-made international marketing strategy is being formulated to promote pork exports. The board’s vice-president of strategic communications Kevin Waetke said: "International trade is a critically important growth area for the industry.
"In fact, it was an important point of discussion this past year as our strategic planning task force developed our new five-year plan."
The National Pork Board regularly evaluates its programmes, funded by producer levies, and their return on investment, he said, adding: "The phase of our study – which is gathering data and industry input – will be completed this fall [autumn]."
Mexico is the largest overseas buyer of US pork, followed by Japan, Hong Kong and China and Canada, according to US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) data. In 2013 (calendar year) US pork exports dropped slightly to US$6.04 billion from US$6.32bn in 2013. That said, US pork exports have been steadily growing from US$2.22bn in 2004, USMEF data showed.