UACES Facebook Meat processing still lags
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July 1, 2020

Meat processing still lags

By Mary Hightower
U of A System Division of Agriculture 

Fast Facts:

  • Frozen pork stocks at lowest level since August 2011
  • Cattle processing rebounds 

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark.  — Meat processing continued at a lower level through May, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, but it wasn’t because of COVID-19-related closures. 

MEAT, BY THE NUMBERS — Meat processing continued at a lower level through May, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, but it wasn’t because of COVID-19-related closures. (Division of Agriculture graphic.)

NASS, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, issued its monthly “Poultry Slaughter” and “Livestock Slaughter,” updating production data through the end of May. 

“In May, chicken slaughter held up much better than might have been expected, given the disruptions in processing operations that received so much attention,” said John Anderson,

head of the agricultural economics and agribusiness department of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural Food and Life Sciences. 

Anderson said chicken slaughter was down 9 percent over May 2019 and down 3 percent compared to April. 

“Most of the decline is actually due to the fact that May 2020 had two fewer slaughter days than May 2019, and one less than last month,” he said. The number of processing days is determined by when weekends or holidays fall during the month.

Cattle and hog slaughter were down “markedly from a year ago, even accounting for fewer slaughter days. May 2020 cattle slaughter was 23 percent lower than May 2019 and May 2020 hog slaughter was 17 percent lower than May 2019,” Anderson said.

However, when compared to April 2020, beef processing made a slight rebound. “Cattle slaughter fell more sharply than hog slaughter but stabilized more quickly,” he said.

Anderson said that the weekly data suggest that “by the time June is wrapped up, cattle and hog slaughter will likely both within 5 percent or less of the prior year.”

Consumer demand for meat has caused frozen meat supplies to decline from April and from May 2019. 

“Stocks of frozen pork in cold storage declined by 24 percent from April and are 26 percent lower than a year ago,” he said, adding that pork stocks are at their lowest level since August 2011.

Anderson said frozen stocks of beef and chicken both remained above 2019 levels, despite a decline from April to May.

Monday’s report is part of the department’s weekly analyses of the impact of COVID-19 on the economy. See them at

To learn about extension and research programs in Arkansas, visit, Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk, @uaex_edu or @ArkAgResearch.


About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system. 

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses. 

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Chief Communications Officer
University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture