2019 livestock forecast: ISU economist expects continued growth and big supplies for pork, beef and poultry

AMES, Iowa – An Iowa State University livestock economist expects record U.S. production for beef, pork and poultry in his forecast for 2019.

Demand for U.S. poultry and livestock remains strong at the start of 2019, but trade tensions could spark uncertainty for producers in the coming months, said Lee Schulz, associate professor of economics and livestock markets specialist. Consumers should expect grocery prices to stay roughly where they were at the end of 2018, but strong competition and large supplies could lead to good deals for consumers who know how to spot them, Schulz said.

He said both U.S. pork and poultry producers appear to be poised for record production in 2019. If so, that would be the seventh consecutive record year for poultry and the fifth consecutive year for pork.

“Beef producers have expanded aggressively the last several years,” he said. “This year should beat the record beef production set in 2002.”

Schulz qualified his 2019 predictions by noting ongoing trade disputes could send waves of volatility through the market during the year. Trade uncertainty with China and Mexico contributed to sharp price drops for hogs in August and September of 2018. The possibility of continued trade disruptions exists this year as well, he said.

“Going forward as we look at 2019, pork exports are expected up 8 percent. That could be much higher or much lower, really, depending on sales to China and Mexico,” he said.

Expanded exports to other markets, such as South Korea, helped to drive the continued livestock expansion in 2018.  But that expansion has led to large supplies, and Schulz said “there’s going to be a lot of competition for the consumer’s dollar.”

Even so, he said grocery shoppers probably shouldn’t expect significant price drops for red meat this year.

“As we get into 2019, I think we’re likely to see prices similar to 2018 at the consumer level because demand remains so strong,” he said.

Instead, he expects retail features and food service offerings to be bolstered by the plentiful supplies available. So smart shoppers should stay on the lookout for good prices when dining out or 2-for-1 sales and similar opportunities at grocery stores to fill up their freezers.