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Fatter Cattle Boost U.S. Meat Output as Slaughter Rates Sag

Michael Hirtzer and Dominic Carey
·1 min read

(Bloomberg) -- Heavier animals helped shore up U.S. production of beef, chicken and turkey last quarter even as the coronavirus slowed processing at meat-packing plants.

During the third quarter, weights of cattle, chicken and turkeys rose while slaughter rates fell, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report Tuesday. Beef production showed the most marked contrast, climbing 2.7% from a year ago as weights rose 2.8% and slaughter slipped 0.1%.

The dynamic is a knock-on effect from the pandemic. Meat plants that were forced to shut down earlier this year as workers caught the virus have continued to struggle with employee absenteeism, resulting in slower slaughter rates. As a result, some farmers have been holding back their animals longer and feeding them more.

For turkey, production was flat while slaughter fell 1.9% and weights increased by 2%. Broiler-chicken slaughter slid 1.6% while weights increased 1.1%, resulting in a modest decline in production of 0.4%. The exception was in pork, where slaughter, hog weights and production were all higher.

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