US Packing Capacity Sufficient for Expanding Cattle Herd

September 2017

Key Points

  • The U.S. cattle industry will remain in expansion mode through the end of the decade. We project total beef production to increase 3-5 percent annually in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
  • Strong beef exports will keep supplies in check and support prices. Exports are on pace to increase 7-9 percent in 2017 and 5-7 percent in 2018.
  • Saturday slaughter hours will continue to rise to support larger slaughter numbers. Current slaughter capacity, however, will be sufficient to handle the increase. The industry has the capability to adjust and meet capacity needs without reopening shuttered plants or constructing additional facilities.
  • Labor availability will be a persistent concern. Therefore, processors will increase investment in automation and robotics.

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