Slaughter weights

In the past few months I’ve been asked repeatedly to comment further on my prediction that barrow and gilt slaughter weights will increase to 290 pounds live weight by the year 2022. This prediction is based on a review of USDA federally inspected barrow and gilt carcass weight increases. In the 24 year period from 1988 through 2011, carcass weight has increased an average of 1.4 lb/year. The corresponding correlation coefficient for this rate of increase is 0.98, meaning there has been very little variation year to year in this annual increase.

When you carry out the trend line for the next 10 years and use a 75% carcass yield on the result, you come up with a 290 lb average live weight for the year 2022.

Based on Iowa-Southern Minnesota live weights, we were on pace at the beginning of this year to increase slaughter weights faster than the trend line. I know many systems selling to Tyson, Cargill and Triumph plants had target sale weights of 300 lb or heavier. As the drought impact became a factor in feed prices, these target weights have come down and this has been reflected in slaughter weights (and numbers) this fall. However, in the past few weeks the trend has returned – weights are going back up as producers get a better picture of feed supplies and ingredient prices. In addition, the optimism reflected in the futures prices for next summer (and months leading to next summer) has producers once again rethinking their strategies for optimal market weights.

The pork industry isn’t alone in the drive to increased slaughter weights. Readers of the Daily Livestock Report written by Steve Meyer and Len Steiner on Wednesday of this week were treated to an excellent discussion of this impact in the broiler industry. Since 1990, industry average ready to cook broiler weights have climbed from 3.2 pounds to 4.47 pounds per bird in October of this year. This is a remarkable 40% increase in average weight in a 22 year period.

The same trends are evident in the beef slaughter data. The impact of this trend is an overall improvement in production efficiency across all of our animal protein species.

As we sell at heavier weights, we need need fewer animals in the breeding herd per pound of animal protein available to consumers. This means items like genetic costs, and pasture costs for the beef industry are spread over more pounds. In the slaughter plant, the weights translate into more pounds of protein per employee.

All of this translates into a lower relative cost of animal protein for the human diet. I look for this trend to continue across all livestock species as we in agriculture feed a growing world population.

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