WASHINGTON – The US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS) released its Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook on May 18. The agency’s data showed that since April, coronavirus (COVID-19) infections in workers forced disruption in beef, pork, broiler and turkey production throughout the United States.

Beef was the hardest hit with April production showing 1.8 billion lbs, 21% lower than the volume from the previous year. The agency said that beef production had its strongest level earlier in 2020, but it expects slaughter levels to be restricted for the rest of the year due to the challenges of the pandemic at meatpacking plants.

ERS estimated that April pork production fell more than 11% below 2019 levels as processing companies in several states have either shut down plants temporarily or reduced output.

Poultry processing was 2% below production levels in April 2019 at 3.27 billion lbs. Turkey production went down 8.3% compared to the previous year at 420 million lbs.

Despite all the challenges for the remainder of 2020, early forecasts for 2021 maintain that commercial beef production will set a record for production at 27.5 billion lbs.

The report said the virus will likely constrain pork processing plants through the rest of this year, but production is forecast to be around 28.2 billion lbs in 2021, 3% above 2020 numbers. 

ERS’ forecast projected that broiler production would also bounce back by 3% to nearly 45 billion lbs. Turkey production was forecast to go up by 1% to 5.9 billion lbs.

The entire USDA ERS outlook can be found here.