ERS Charts of Note

Subscribe to get highlights from our current and past research, Monday through Friday, or see our privacy policy.

Get the latest charts via email, or on our mobile app for Download the Charts of Note app on Google Play and Download the Charts of Note app on the App Store


U.S. hog industry is recovering from PEDv outbreak

Monday, February 9, 2015

The litter rate (pigs per litter) is an efficiency indicator of the U.S. hog industry. Litter rates have been steadily increasing over time due to improvements in genetics, diet, and animal care and management. The emergence of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) in the U.S. swine herd in the spring of 2013 caused a sharp—but temporary—drop in litter rates. PEDv afflicts young piglets in particular, and caused millions of newborn pigs to die as the disease spread to herds in 33 States. The virus flourishes in cold, damp climates, so its effect on litter rates was strong in the fall and winter months of late 2013 and early 2014. The pigs-per-litter rate began to decline in the fourth quarter of 2013, and then dropped sharply in the first quarter of 2014. Litter rates rebounded in the spring of 2014, responding to the warmer, dryer climates and to aggressive actions by producers, including increased biosecurity measures and vaccination. These measures contributed to lower disease incidence and limited losses of newborn pigs from PEDv; they are also expected to limit the incidence of the disease this winter and will help to minimize the impact of future outbreaks. This chart is based on information in the January 2015 Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook.

U.S. hog production increasingly occurs on the largest operations

Monday, January 12, 2015

While the number of all farms in the United States remained fairly constant, the number of hog farms fell by about 70 percent between 1992 and 2009, from over 240,000 to about 71,000. Despite fewer hog farms, the Nation’s hog inventory was stable during the period, averaging about 60 million head, with cyclical fluctuations between 56 and 68 million head. Thus, hog production consolidated as fewer, larger farms accounted for an increased share of total output. From 1992 to 2009, the share of the U.S. hog and pig inventory on farms with 2,000 head or more increased from less than 30 percent to 86 percent. In 2009, farms with 5,000 head or more accounted for 61 percent of all hogs and pigs. This chart is found in the ERS report, U.S. Hog Production From 1992 to 2009: Technology, Restructuring, and Productivity Growth, ERR-158, October 2013.

U.S. hog operations have become increasingly specialized

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The traditional approach of farrow-to-finish hog production in the U.S.—where breeding and gestation, farrowing, nursery, and finishing to market weight are performed on one operation—is being replaced by operations that specialize in a single production phase. In 1992, more than 50 percent of U.S. hog operations used the farrow-to-finish approach. By 2009, less than 25 percent were farrow-to-finish producers. In contrast, hog operations specializing in raising feeder pigs weighing 30-80 pounds to market weights of 225-300 pounds (feeder-to-finish) accounted for less than 20 percent of hog producers in 1992, but nearly 50 percent in 2009. Specialized operations produced more than 70 percent of U.S. finished hog output in 2009, and were more likely to be producing hogs under contract than were farrow-to-finish farms. This chart is found in the ERS report, U.S. Hog Production From 1992 to 2009: Technology, Restructuring, and Productivity Growth, ERR-158, October 2013.

Grocery store prices for beef, pork, and eggs are up as U.S. supplies decrease

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Retail food-at-home prices in the second quarter of 2014 were 2.3 percent higher than a year ago, as most at-home food categories increased in price. Retail beef and veal prices were up 10.8 percent as the supply of beef is strained by historically low herd sizes. Over the same time period, pork prices increased 11.2 percent, partially the result of the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus, which has reduced litter sizes and increased piglet mortality. Egg prices are also up, in part due to increasing exports and a strong domestic demand for eggs and egg products. The increases in beef and veal, pork, and egg prices are the largest year-over-year increases since the fourth quarter of 2011. This chart appears in the Food Prices and Spending section of ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials data product, updated September 10, 2014. More information on ERS’s food price forecasts can also be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product.

U.S. hog producers increase slaughter weights to counter PEDv effects

Friday, August 8, 2014

U.S. hog producers are responding to inventory losses associated with the spread of the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) by increasing the average slaughter weights of their remaining inventory, thus mitigating the likely impacts of PEDv on 2014 pork production. The PEDv outbreak reduced the average litter rates for the December 2013-February 2014 and March-May 2014 pig crops by about 5.5 percent and 5.1 percent, respectively, contributing to a 5 percent decline in the June 2014 U.S. hog inventory compared with a year earlier. However, lower U.S. corn prices, combined with excess barn space created by the PEDv losses have allowed producers to respond by holding surviving animals longer on cheaper corn-based rations, thus boosting average dressed weights. During January-May 2014, dressed weights averaged 3.7 percent higher than the same period in 2013. The heavier animals continue to partially offset production losses from PEDv-related deaths. For 2014, USDA forecasts a 5.2 percent drop in hog slaughter, but only a 1.9 percent reduction in pork production. Dressed weights are expected to average more than 214 pounds this year, more than 7 pounds greater than in 2013. Find this chart and additional analysis in Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook: July 2014.

Hog virus contributes to outlook for higher wholesale and retail pork prices

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Retail pork prices have been rising in recent months, increasing 2.8 percent in the first quarter of 2014. Higher prices at the meat counter are partly due to increasing farm prices for hogs, which rose 41 percent over the same time period. Higher hog prices to date are, in part, the result of strong demand, particularly in export markets, as well as the high price of pork substitutes such as beef and poultry. In addition, the outbreak of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) has increased piglet mortality, reduced litter sizes, and lowered forecasts for U.S. hog slaughter and pork production later in 2014. Farm prices provide early indications of changes at the wholesale and retail levels, although price swings at those levels are dampened by processing, transportation, and retailing costs. The recent increases in hog prices indicate that the current inflation in retail pork prices can be expected to gain momentum in coming months. ERS forecasts wholesale pork prices to increase 7 to 8 percent in 2014 and retail pork prices to rise by 3 to 4 percent. More information on ERS’s food price forecasts can be found in the Food Price Outlook data product, updated June 25, 2014.

Effects of PEDv outbreak evident in U.S. pig-per-litter rate

Monday, June 16, 2014

The spread of the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) in the U.S. hog sector since the fall of 2013 has contributed to reduced market hog inventories and higher hog prices in early 2014 and forecasts for lower pork production and higher prices later in the year. PEDv is a coronavirus particularly lethal to pre-weaned piglets. The first U.S. case was formally diagnosed in May 2013 and, according to the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, the disease continued to spread through the fall of 2013, and the number of new cases accelerated early in 2014. The potential effects of PEDv on pork production are first signaled by USDA survey estimates of pigs per litter. Because of the high mortality rate of very young piglets from PEDv, the latest report showed a lower average pigs-per-litter estimate for the December 2013-February 2014 pig crop. As a result, the forecast for the December-February 2014 pig crop is down 2.8 percent compared with 2013, leading to lower expected pork supplies in the summer of 2014. The North American pork industry is fighting the disease through enhanced biosecurity measures, supportive care of affected piglets, and controlled exposure of healthy animals to the disease to help them develop protective immunity. Find additional analysis in Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook: May 2014.

Continued growth projected in China's meat imports

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

While USDA projects robust increases in China’s meat production and imports of feed grains, China’s meat imports are also projected to rise. Pork imports are projected to show the most growth, rising from about 750,000 tons in 2013 to 1.2 million tons by 2023. The United States, Canada, and European Union are the main suppliers of pork to China. China’s meat consumption is expected to expand at a pace similar to the trend of the past decade. Pork will continue to play a central role in China’s meat economy (China accounts for half of world production and consumption), however, poultry is gaining in popularity, largely because it is cheaper than pork. Restaurants, fast food chains, and cafeterias play a key role in diversifying meat consumption, since many feature specific kinds of meat or chicken. Beef and mutton are important parts of popular ethnic cuisines becoming popular among the broader population. Although China is expected to continue producing most of its own meat, China’s livestock sector is under pressure from rising costs, disease, environmental regulations, and resource constraints, which could lead to China’s meat imports rising even further if production cannot sustain its current pace of growth. Find this chart and more analysis in the April Amber Waves feature article "China in the Next Decade: Rising Meat Demand and Growing Imports of Feed."

PEDv outbreak sparks increase in hog prices

Friday, May 2, 2014

Piglet losses from Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PEDv) have reduced USDA’s forecast for 2014 pork production and sparked a recent increase in U.S. hog prices. The 2014 winter pig crop—which will be slaughtered in the summer of 2014—was almost 3 percent lower than a year ago due to pre-weaned piglet deaths associated with PEDv. The impact of the piglet losses on total 2014 pork production and prices is expected to be reduced as producers adjust to the changing market conditions. While fewer hogs will be available for slaughter this year, producers are expected to increase slaughter weights in response to the year-over-year rise in hog prices, lower feed costs, and the excess barn space resulting from fewer hogs moving through the production chain. Average dressed hog weights for 2014 are expected to rise by almost 5 pounds above those in 2013, partially offsetting lower slaughter numbers, limiting the annual production decline to about 2 percent compared with 2013, and leading to some easing of hog prices later in 2014. This chart is based on data in Livestock and Meat Domestic Data, with additional analysis in Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook: April 2014.

Per capita availability of chicken higher than that of beef for a third year

Thursday, April 17, 2014

According to ERS's 2012 food availability data, the per capita supply of chicken available to eat in the United States continues to outpace that of beef. In 2012, 56.6 pounds of chicken per person on a boneless, edible basis were available for Americans to eat, compared to 54.5 pounds of beef. Although down from its peak of 60.9 pounds per person in 2006, chicken availability has been higher than that of beef for the past three years. Chicken began its upward climb in the 1940s, overtaking pork in 1996 as the second-most-consumed meat and overtaking beef for the No. 1 spot in 2010. Pork availability, which fluctuated between 49.9 and 46.6 pounds per person over the 1981 to 2009 period, dropped to 42.6 pounds per person in 2012. This chart is from the Summary Findings in ERS’s data product, the Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System.

Outbreak of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDv) impacts forecast of 2014 U.S. pork output

Friday, March 7, 2014

In recent weeks there is evidence indicating acceleration in the rate of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDv) cases in the U.S. swine herd, currently leading to modest impacts on USDA forecasts of 2014 U.S. pork production. The presence of PEDv was confirmed in the United States on May 17, 2013. While animals older than 7 days typically recover from the virus, mortality rates for pre-weaned piglets are often 100 percent. There is no effective vaccination to protect animals from the virus. PEDv spreads via the fecal-oral route and via contaminated footwear, clothing, farm supplies, and vehicles. The disease is only infectious to swine, and as such there are no associated food safety concerns. The available data likely understates the incidence of the disease because not every outbreak site is sampled and tested for PEDv, and because PEDv is not a disease that the World Organization of Animal Health (OIE) or USDA requires to be reported. Due to the continued spread of the disease and the likely losses of young animals, in February USDA made a 0.7 percent reduction in the forecast of 2014 pork production. Production losses from PEDv-related animal deaths in 2014 are expected to be partially offset by continued increases in slaughter weights. Find this chart and additional analysis is Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook: February 2014.

Midwest drought's impacts seen in fourth quarter 2012 food prices

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

In the final three months of 2012, higher field corn prices resulting from the Midwest drought began to show up on supermarket shelves. From October to December, while the all-items CPI fell 0.8 percent and overall food-at-home prices increased only 0.2 percent, prices rose for most foods that rely heavily on corn-based animal feed—beef, pork, poultry, other meats, eggs, and dairy products. Milk prices rose nearly 3 percent while egg prices increased 1.7 percent. Prices for beef, poultry, and other meats all rose by about 0.5 percent. The only animal-based category defying this trend is pork, where rising inventories and falling exports have caused retail prices to drop from historically high levels in early 2012. ERS forecasts prices for all meat and animal-based products to increase steadily through the first half of 2013. More information on food price changes and forecasts can be found in the Food Price Outlook data product, updated January 2013.

Significant gains in productivity in U.S. hog production since 2007

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The U.S. pork industry registered another year of strong productivity gains in 2012. Since 1990, pork production has increased by more than 52 percent, while the U.S. inventory of breeding sows has decreased by more than 15 percent. A primary source of pork industry productivity gains is increasing litter rates, which have more than offset declining sow numbers. Because of the growth in sow efficiency, the industry can produce the same or greater number of pigs with fewer sows. The dramatic increase in litter rates beginning in 2007 is mostly attributed to advances in breeding herd genetics and improvements in the management and care for sows during gestation and farrowings. Since 2007, the hog industry has enhanced its selective breeding methods to develop sows that produce and nurture more piglets. At the same time, a larger share of swine producers utilized the latest housing technologies and labor practices, improving the comfort and survivability of sows and their piglets, hence contributing to larger hog production. This is an update of a chart from Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook, LDPM-220, October 2012.

Livestock from foreign sources contribute to total U.S. meat supplies

Thursday, November 29, 2012

While it is relatively easy to track U.S. meat and livestock imports, it is more difficult to estimate the amount of meat produced in the United States from animals that originated abroad. Foreign-born cattle accounted for an average of 8.1 percent of total monthly U.S. beef production over the last 13 years. When that amount is added to the annual average of 2.9 billion pounds of beef and veal imported from all foreign sources, almost 16 percent of annual U.S. beef and veal supplies is estimated to originate abroad. From 1995 through 2008, Canadian hogs contributed about 93 million pounds per year to U.S. pork supplies. When this amount is combined with the 895 million pounds of pork imported by the U.S. each year, foreign sources are estimated to account for about 8.4 percent of total U.S. pork supplies. This chart appears in "How Much U.S. Meat Comes From Foreign Sources?" in the September 2012 issue of ERS's Amber Waves magazine.

Clean Water Act regulations may affect the size of some hog farms

Friday, June 15, 2012

In 2003, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency strengthened Federal Clean Water Act (CWA) regulations governing the handling and application of manure by livestock operations. An important and unchanging feature of these CWA regulations is that operations confining more than a specific number of livestock face more stringent rules. Using U.S. Census of Agriculture data from 2002 and 2007, changes in the size distribution of hog farm operations in years before and after the stricter 2003 regulations can be identified. The distribution varies smoothly across the regulatory threshold of 2,500 hogs prior to the 2003 CWA rules, but shows a sharp discontinuity at the 2,500 head threshold by 2007. The unexpectedly large number of farms located just below the regulatory threshold in 2007 suggests that some livestock facility operators may be controlling the size of their hog inventories to avoid the costs of regulation. This chart is found in the June 2012 issue of Amber Waves magazine.

China's hog price surpasses the U.S. hog price in 2007-08

Friday, June 8, 2012

Rising prices in China's domestic market have been the main contributor to the country's rising pork imports. From 1991 to 2006, Chinese hog prices fluctuated within a relatively narrow range and were usually less than U.S. prices, but have been significantly higher than U.S. hog prices since their sharp increase during 2007-08. One of the main reasons for higher pork prices in China is the industry's rising production costs. ERS analysis of cost of production data from China's National Development and Reform Commission show that average hog production costs, converted to U.S. dollars, more than doubled from 2002 to 2009. Feed is the largest of the production expenses, accounting for about 60 percent of the total. The shift in prices is an indication of the general improvement of prospects for U.S. pork sales to China. This chart appeared in China's Volatile Pork Industry, LDP-M-211-01, February 2012.

China's hog cycle drives U.S. pork exports

Monday, March 26, 2012

U.S. pork sales to China tend to rise and fall in rhythm with cyclical changes in China's hog sector. Chinese retail pork prices rose more than 50 percent in 2007 over prices in the previous year, leading to increased U.S. exports of pork to China through the first half of 2008. Depressed hog prices and swine disease in 2010 led to a decline in China's hog inventory that set the stage for another surge in hog prices in 2011. In turn, U.S. pork exports to China rebounded strongly during the second half of 2011 after a 2009 ban on U.S. pork imports was lifted. This chart is found in the March 2012 issues of Amber Waves magazine.

Hog spot market prices not strongly associated with production contracts

Thursday, March 22, 2012

ERS researchers used farm-level data from the 2002 and 2007 Censuses of Agriculture to examine the effect of increasing use of hog production contracts on market prices, often referred to as "spot market" prices. Comparing the prices received by independent producers in regions of growing contract production with the prices in regions of shrinking contract production, researchers found no strong relationship between contract prevalence and spot market prices. Between 2002 and 2007, the average price received by all independent producers who specialized in growing hogs to market weight increased slightly more. In counties where the share of production under contract decreased or increased by a small amount (fewer than 25 percentage points), the average price increased by about $31.50 per head. Price increases were lower in counties where contracting prevalence either did not change or increased by more than 25 percentage points. However, the average-price differences between all the groups were relatively small. This chart is found in the March 2012 issue of Amber Waves magazine.

China and Hong Kong purchasing more pork imports

Thursday, February 16, 2012

China's potential to affect the world pork market derives from the size and volatility of its domestic pork market. China accounts for nearly half of the world's pork production and consumption. Its annual pork output is four to five times that of the United States and more than double that of the European Union. According to official Chinese statistics, China slaughters over 600 million hogs annually-one hog for every 2.2 domestic consumers. China and Hong Kong pork imports surged in 2007 when a shortfall in Chinese pork production led to record Chinese pork prices. That year, Hong Kong-China pork imports nearly doubled to just over 1 million metric tons (mmt), then rose to over 1.9 mmt in 2008. This chart comes from the ERS report, China's Volatile Pork Industry, LDPM-21101, February 2012.

More hog operations adopted nutrient management plans and received EQIP payments in 2009

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Federal Clean Water Act regulations provide an incentive for large livestock operations to adopt a comprehensive nutrient management plan (CNMP). A CNMP is a set of conservation practices and management activities designed to match crop nutrient needs to applications so that as few nutrients as possible are lost to the environment. The USDA's Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) helps defray the costs of meeting environmental regulations by partially funding the planning, installation, and maintenance of conservation practices. Between 2004 and 2009 the share of hog operations that had a CNMP and the share that received EQIP payments increased. This chart comes from the December 2011 issue of Amber Waves magazine.