Satisfying the Southeast’s Taste for Meat and Dairy
The Southeast loves its meat (especially BBQ) and dairy products. And with a U.S. population increase of just over 10%,1 regional farmers are hustling to keep consumers fed in a manner that reflects the South’s famous hospitality.
The Southeast is a poultry powerhouse.Georgia was the top producer of broilers in the country for 2020 and Alabama ranked fourth. Low broiler availability, due to the pandemic, is facilitating increased production. At eight billion, Georgia produced almost 14% (13.6) of broilers for a total of around $3.0 billion of the national output. Alabama contributed 6.6 billion, which was more than 10% (10.7%) at $2.4 billion. With almost 1.9 billion broilers produced, Carolina contributed another 3.2 percent worth $0.7 billion.2
With a shortage of broilers, producers in the region will be challenged to meet demand. 2021 broiler chick placements for Georgia through end of May were approximately 534,000. Alabama placements were almost 505,000, and South Carolina’s were 108,389.3
Farmers are scrambling to deliver more table eggs.Due to overproduction and falling demand, U.S. egg manufacturing and prices fell precipitously from late 2019 through early 2020. But foreign buyers, drawn to low prices, started to drive up export demand. Georgia ratcheted up with production of almost 250 million table eggs, an increase of six percent from the previous year. Alabama and South Carolina significantly lagged with drops of two percent (38 million) and three percent (60.6 million), respectively.4
Through March 2021, U.S. table egg production stood at just over eight billion. Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina contributed 238 million, 38 million and 68 million, respectively.5
Southeastern beef production is simmering.Despite supply chain and feed setbacks, overall U.S. cattle production increased by approximately two percent to almost 46 billion pounds in 2020.6 Cattle and calves are important commodities for Southeastern states.
In 2020, Alabama led the region in production with more than 544 million pounds. Florida followed with 442 million pounds. Georgia and South Carolina contributed 385 million and 180 million pounds, respectively.7
In terms of 2020 cash receipts, Florida was the leader with receipts of $477 million, followed by Alabama with $390 million, Georgia with $329 million and South Carolina with $122 million.8
The USDA increased forecasted beef production 260 million pounds to 27.9 billion pounds for 2021.9
Pork makes a tempting industry appetizer.While pork isn’t produced to the same extent as beef in the Southeast, cash receipts from hog and pig production are financially significant. Georgia led the region in 2020 with $26 million; South Carolina had cash receipts of $23 million and Alabama posted cash receipts of $22 million for the year.10
U.S. pork production through April 2021 totaled 2.34 billion pounds, up 15% from the previous year.11 Declining numbers of market hogs and continuing strong demand will keep prices high through the end of the year.
Dairy production is a glass half full.Consumers’ cravings for dairy products tend to change over time. People aren’t drinking as much milk, and yogurt and ice cream consumption has also dropped in recent years. But butter and cheese are as popular as ever. These shifting preferences are sustaining the demand for milk product.12
In recent years, milk production in the Southeast has been concentrated in Florida and Georgia. Home to about 125,000 dairy cows, Florida led the region with production of 2.9 billion pounds of milk valued at almost $488 million in 2020.13 Georgia ranked second and produced nearly 1.8 billion pounds of milk worth $350 million in 2020.14
Producers will need to keep a close watch on the cost of feed and overall demand. However, U.S. milk production through April 2021 totaled 19.3 billion pounds. That represented an increase of 3.3 percent from the previous year. Florida’s April production was 197 million pounds, down by just over five percent (5.3) year over year. At 154 million pounds, Georgia kept pace with 2020’s production during the same time.15
2022 could see an industry cooldown.Next year could prove challenging for meat and dairy producers. According to the USDA, each category is likely to face unique challenges that will affect production and pricing.16
Poultry. Rising feed cost is expected to continue, which will subsequently drive up prices by an average of 93 cents per pound. Egg production will rise modestly (1.55 percent).
Table eggs. Higher feed costs will result in only a slight increase in production. Prices will rise by an average of 115 cents per dozen – approximately two percent more than 2021’s forecasted average.
Beef and cattle. Cattle supplies may be lower if drought and higher feed costs continue, resulting in lower forecasted meat production of 27.3 billion pounds in 2022. Increased consumer demand will continue to drive up costs by around five percent. The fed steer price could increase to $144.00 per hundredweight (cwt) if feed issues continue.
Dairy. Milk production, along with domestic use, is expected to increase modestly in 2022. The all-milk price is forecasted at $18.50 per cwt.
Pork. Pork production is expected to increase about one percent — 28.5 billion pounds — in response to increasing demand.
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