Hog slaughter set a new record at 416,000 head on Sept. 5. The old record for biggest daily hog slaughter was 411,088 on December 16, 2004.
"Normally, records come as something of a surprise," says Ron Plain, University of Missouri economist. "That was not the case with the new hog slaughter record.
"The cooler weather of late summer usually brings with it a rise in hog slaughter. Because Monday was a holiday, only 3,000 hogs rather than the typical 390,000 to 400,000 hogs were slaughtered. Thus, plenty of hogs are available to allow packers to run flat out for the rest of the week that kicked off with Labor Day," he says. "Even if packers run full speed, Saturday's slaughter is likely to exceed 200,000 head."
Shackle space not short
U.S. daily hog slaughter capacity is up sharply to over 420,000 head. The jump is largely due to the opening of the Triumph Foods plant at St. Joseph, Missouri. Like most large hog slaughter plants, this one is designed to slaughter 1,000 hogs per hour. The plant began operating in January and added a second kill shift last month.
In addition to the Triumph plant, several older plants have added to their slaughter capacity since last year. Premium Standard, Hormel and Indiana Packers have recently increased, or are in the process of increasing, their slaughter capacity.
"This expansion is important for hog producers," says Plain. "In the fall of 1998, slaughter capacity fell short of the desired level of hog movement resulting in disastrously low hog prices."
More records likely this fall
Plain expects Tuesday's record will be broken several more times this fall. Fourth quarter hog slaughter in 2005 totaled a record 27.725 million head. Based on the September inventory of market hogs, fourth quarter 2006 slaughter is expected to be up 0.9% from last year's level.
In both 2004 and 2005, weekly hog slaughter exceeded 2 million head each non-holiday week from Labor Day to Christmas. Normally packers slaughter a significant number of hogs on Saturdays during autumn.
Since having employees work on Saturday entails paying overtime wages, packers usually want to push up weekday slaughter in order to avoid the extra labor cost associated with operating on the weekend.