MEAT OUTPUT CONTINUES CLIMB, WHOLESALE PRICES TO DECLINE

Retailers can expect to see competitive wholesale prices on beef, pork and chicken throughout the second quarter and beyond as record production of livestock and poultry continues."We expect total meat supplies this year to reach record levels on a per capita basis," said a meat industry analyst who asked not to be named.According to various industry sources, beef production is expected to increase

Retailers can expect to see competitive wholesale prices on beef, pork and chicken throughout the second quarter and beyond as record production of livestock and poultry continues.

"We expect total meat supplies this year to reach record levels on a per capita basis," said a meat industry analyst who asked not to be named.

According to various industry sources, beef production is expected to increase 2% over last year, pork about 3% to 4% and chicken by about 6%.

"With these meat supplies, this is shaping up to be a buyers' market again this year," said the source. "There will be ample offerings of the major meats: beef, pork and chicken."

Kevin Yost, director of retail programs for the Beef Industry Council, a division of the National Live Stock and Meat Board, Chicago, said beef production is expected to rise 2% above 1994 levels.

Supplies are expected to be the most abundant from late July through September, said Yost.

"The difference in the increase in supply from last year to this year -- even though both are large -- is that the 1995 supply period will hit a little later," he said. Last year's supplies were greater during the first half of the year.

The beef supply is expected to rise to 24.9 billion pounds this year, up from 24.3 billion pounds in 1994, which was its highest since 1976.

Yost said beef production is expected to continue on this upward trend for probably the next one to two years, peaking sometime in 1996 or 1997.

According to figures supplied by the Beef Industry Council, the average wholesale price of light Choice grade boxed beef was $108.57 per hundred weight in 1994, compared with $116.65 in 1993. Yost declined to predict prices throughout 1995.

Meanwhile, chicken supplies are expected to rise 6% this year, on top of the industry's 7% growth in 1994, said Bill Roenigk, senior vice president of the National Broiler Council, Washington.

He said wholesale prices "are likely to slip" on a cents per pound basis from the mid 50s to the low 50s.

"What consumers and grocers are likely to see are continued attractive prices for boneless, skinless breast meat and breast products in general," said Roenigk, adding, "the white meat prices have eased up."

An industry source remarked that wholesale chicken breast prices are at a 15-year low, which is "reflective of the weakness in the meat and poultry markets."

Hog production was up 7% during the first quarter this year with a fall-off expected in April and May, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The high production early in the year depressed prices and, despite the anticipated slowdown in production, prices are expected to continue to fall, according to USDA.

In 1994, 94 million hogs were slaughtered, up from 90 million in 1993. That number is expected to reach 96 million this year, according to the National Pork Producers Council, Des Moines, Iowa. Average price for feeder pigs was $43.50 per hundred weight in March 1995, down from $47.33 per hundred weight in 1994.