Lower hog weights in 2023 reflect high feed costs, economic uncertainty, disease

Line chart showing weekly average dressed hog weights between 2017 and 2023

Hog producers pay close attention to the weights at which they market hogs. Hog feed rations, whose principal components are corn and high-protein soybean meal, typically account for more than half of hog production costs. Producers will often add additional weight to hogs when hog prices offset the additional costs of doing so. In the three years leading up to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, hog weights reflected moderate feed costs and hog prices. Hog dressed weights, the weight of the animal available after processing, averaged 212 pounds per hog. As the U.S. economy reopened in 2021 after shutdowns related to COVID-19, demand for pork increased significantly. Consequently, 2021 hog prices increased dramatically, reflecting recovery of the processing sector and reduced pork production. Dressed weights responded to higher hog prices in 2021, averaging almost 214.7 pounds, despite significantly higher feed costs. Through most of 2022, lower production combined with strong consumer demand drove hog prices to year-over-year higher levels, largely compensating producers for increased costs of adding weight to hogs. Dressed weights in 2022 averaged 215.6 pounds per head compared with 214.7 pounds in 2021. However, average dressed weights dropped below previous year levels in late 2022. Factors including inflation, high interest rates, economic uncertainty, and negative producer returns in November and December created incentives for producers to market hogs at lighter weights. This trend has continued through the first 9 weeks of 2023. During this time, hog weights averaged 217.4 pounds—1.1 pounds below 2022 because of high feed costs, weak consumer demand in the current inflationary environment, and disease losses in major hog-producing States. This chart first appeared in the USDA, Economic Research Service Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook, March 2023.

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