The amount of beef in cold storage remains at historically large levels, according to the latest USDA Cold Storage report. David P. Anderson, ag economist for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension service, writes in his “In the Cattle Markets” column for the Livestock Marketing Information Center that the report generated a lot of attention.
Beef in cold storage was down slightly from the last month of 2022, but still up from the year before, according to the USDA’s latest Cold Storage report.
“The report indicated 533 million pounds of beef in storage, about 1 percent more than January of 2022, but less than in December,” Anderson said. “The amount of beef in storage is historically large.”
He says there is some seasonality to beef in cold storage numbers, peaking in the winter months and finding a low in the early summer. But last year saw little seasonal decline and then the typical growth heading into winter.
“Beef in cold storage has been pretty interesting for a number of months,” Anderson says. “Cold storage stocks of beef tend to peak in December- January and reach a low in June-July. The seasonal decline in stocks has been, on average, about 82 million pounds over the last 5 years. In 2022, there was very little seasonal decline and supplies grew to 544 million pounds by the end of the year.”
There are a number of factors driving the large beef in cold storage stocks, he says. Part of it is the record production last year, as well as trends in trade.
“Why are stocks so large?” Anderson says. “One factor is that beef production was a record large 28.3 billion pounds in 2022. U.S. total beef trade, exports plus imports, was also a record large 6.78 billion pounds in 2022. Beef exports were a record large 3.43 billion pounds and imports, 3.35 billion pounds, the most since 2015. That’s a lot of beef moving in, out and around the country.”
Anderson says it is helpful to look at the numbers on a per capita basis.
“Putting this level of stocks in context is that 533 million pounds is about 1.6 pounds per person, which is not a lot different than per capita stocks over the last several decades,” he says.