The U.S. has a record level pork belly sitting in cold storage, with more than 40 million pounds in refrigerated warehouses as of September 30, according to a Bloomberg report. This is the highest amount for the month since 1971.
This stockpile stems from a buildup in U.S. hog herds. As hog producers built up their herds in anticipation of more demand of imports from China following the African swine fever outbreak there, bellies have seen an increase because the demand is largely domestic, unlike cuts like ham, which overseas buying can help reduce reserves.
As of September 1, the U.S. herd had skyrocketed to 77.7 million head, which was a record for the month and the highest since 1943, Bloomberg notes.
So far, this has led to an excess in U.S. supplies, but this overage could be short-lived if recent Chinese buying stays steady. Exports of U.S. pork exploded in early October, partly because of an increase in sales to China, though the USDA noted a possible reporting error in the numbers.
According to Dennis Smith, senior account executive at Archer Financial Services, China typically buys whole carcasses, rather than split cuts of pork, which they process domestically.
“The theory is, if we continue to export split carcasses to China, it’ll create a belly shortage,” he tells Bloomberg.
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