Structure of U.S. Pork Industry
The structure of the pork industry changed dramatically during the 1990s and promises to continue to change in the years ahead. By structural change, we refer to the number and size of operations, who owns them, and how they relate to other firms in the pork chain. Change provides both challenges and opportunities to those individuals who make their living from the industry. Trying to cope with rapid change can quickly become a test of survival. Most of the data for this fact sheet come from USDA publications and industry surveys conducted by the University of Missouri and Iowa State University.
Number of Producers
The number of U.S. farms raising hogs has been declining for a very long time (Table 1). In 1920, 4.9 million U.S. farms raised hogs. In 1950, 3 million farms raised hogs. In 1967, 1.04 million farms raised hogs. Last year, only 85,760 U.S. farms raised hogs and 8,500 of these did not own the hogs they were raising. The average inventory per hog operation has increased from 10 head in 1935 to 690 head in 2000. The number of U.S. hog operations has declined and the average inventory per hog farm has increased each year since 1980. There is no indication that either of these trends will soon end.
Table 1. Number of U.S. hog operations and average inventory by year. Sources: USDA/NASS
and Census of Agriculture
|Year||# of Operations||Average Inventory|
Size of Producers
Although most hog operations are small, most of the hogs are owned by a few large operations. The smallest half of U.S. hog operations produces less than 1% of the nation’s hogs and the largest 1% of hog operations produces over half of the hogs.
Table 2 shows the estimated number of independent pork operations and their market volume in 2000 by size category. The 20 largest firms marketed 33.3 million hogs in 2000, nearly 35% of total U.S. marketings. Combined with the 136 operations in the 50,000 to 500,000 category, these 156 firms produced 51% of all hogs in 2000. At least 25 of the 136 operations in the 50,000 to 500,000 head category are producer networks owned by multiple individual farmers who finish the feeder pigs produced in centralized sow units.
Table 2. Number of independent U.S. hog operations and marketings by size of operation (2000). Sources: Lawrence & Grimes and USDA/NASS.
|Annual Marketings||# of Operations||million head marketed in 2000|
|Market Hogs||Feeder Pigs||Seed- stock||Total|
Each network may have a dozen or more owners who finished the hogs on their own farms, but it is counted as a single operation because a single firm manages the sow unit and members of the network typically are under a common marketing contract.
Growth of Larger Producers
There was a dramatic shift in hog production from small to large operations during the last decade of the 20th century (Table 3). In 1988, operations which marketed fewer than 1000 head per year accounted for 32% of total U.S. hog production. In 2000, this size category produced only 2% of the nation’s hogs. Operations marketing over 50,000 head per year produced 7% of the nation’s hogs in 1988 and 51% in 2000. The 5,000 to 10,000 group has maintained a stable market share over the 12-year period, and is the dividing line between those gaining and those losing market share.
Table 3. Share of annual hog marketings by size of operation(1988-2000). Source: Lawrence & Grimes.
One reason for this shift to larger operations is profitability. Sixty-five percent of the firms that marketed 1,000 to 1,999 hogs reported a profit during 2000 in Lawrence and Grimes’ survey compared to 95% of the firms that marketed over 500,000 hogs. The economic advantages of size have not gone unnoticed by producers or by lenders.
Considering the cost structure of large farms and recent prices, it is not surprising that the large producers are satisfied with the pork business. The large producers were asked by Lawrence and Grimes to rate their satisfaction with pork production on a scale of 1 (not satisfied at all) to 6 (extremely satisfied). The average rating for the 50,000 to 500,000 head producers was 4.67 compared with 4.95 for the 500,000 and more producers.
Location of Production
Historically, hog production has been concentrated in those states that are major producers of feed grains. This relationship is weakening. North Carolina and Oklahoma have made it into the top 10 without being major producers of feed grains. Table 4 lists the production and market share of the top 15 hog producing states in 2000 along with their production in 1990.
Table 4. Slaughter hog marketings of 15 leading states. Source: Pork Board checkoff data reflecting the state where the hogs were finished.
|2000 Rank State||2000||1990|
|(000 head)||% of U.S.||(000 head)||% of U.S.|
|2 N. Carolina||14,474||15.0||5,727||5.8|
|11 S. Dakota||2,121||2.2||2,993||3.4|
Production contracts have become common in the pork industry with 22% of farrowings and 34% of hogs finished under a production contract in 2000 (Table 5). These numbers are 4 to 5 points higher than in 1997. Producers who use production contracts owned 39% of farrowings and 55% of market hogs in 2000. However, approximately 44% of the farrowings and 38% of the hogs finished by these producers are in company owned facilities. Based on responses from contract growers, Lawrence and Grimes determined the common types of production contracts in 2000 (Table 6). Payment on a per head basis with incentives was the most common type of contract (37%), and per head without incentives accounted for 14% of production contracts. The per pound contract is more likely to have an incentive. However, there is little difference in the the share of payment per pig space with or without incentives.
Table 5. Percent of U.S. hogs owned by contractors and percent raised under production contracts, 1997 and 2000. Source: Lawrence & Grimes.
|% hogs raised under Contract Size class 1,000 hd. Mktd.||% hogs owned by contractors|
The contract growers surveyed generally found contracts gave them better access to capital, allowed for additional expansion, and reduced risk. Contractors and growers were both generally satisfied with contracting (Table 7). On a 1 to 6 scale with 1 being very satisfied and 6 being unsatisfied, 92% of the contractors and 85% of the growers rated their satisfaction a 1, 2, or 3. Thus, individuals on both sides of contracts reported that the agreement is working relatively well. Seventy-two percent of the large and very large producers reported training and supervising growers closely. Another 16% reported providing little training and supervision and 11% said they try to have experienced growers who need little supervision. Contract production is expected to continue as more than 80% indicated they plan to maintain the relative share of contracts to owned facilities, or they plan to expand contracting.
Table 6. Type of payment system for production contracts (%). Source: Lawrence & Grimes.
|Payment Basis||Pig Space||Pig Space||Head||Head||Pound||Pound||Other|
The number of hogs sold on the spot market has declined rapidly in recent years as producers have moved to marketing contracts. Surveys conducted by Glenn Grimes at the University of Missouri indicate that 62% of market hogs were sold on the spot market in 1994, compared with 43% in 1997 and 29% in 2000. A pork checkoff funded survey (Table 8) of packers suggests that only 17% of the barrows and gilts were purchased in the spot market in January 2001. The remainder were procured via some type of marketing agreement. Fifty-four percent were acquired via a formula price contract, i.e. the price was set in relation to some contemporary publicly reported price for hogs or pork. Two percent were acquired via a window contract with a ledger. A window contract is similar to a formula contract except that extreme high and low prices are moderated. A ledger provision keeps track of payments under the contract relative to spot market prices and requires some sort of “settling-up” of the difference when the contract expires. Five percent of barrows and gilts were purchased on a window contract without a ledger. Six percent were purchased with the price set in relation to the futures market price when the contract was established. Sixteen percent were purchased using a price determined by the cost of feed.
Table 7. Level of satisfaction with production contract reported by contractors and growers (1=very satisfied, 6= not satisfied) (%). Source: Lawrence & Grimes.
|% of responses|
It should be noted that most vertically integrated producers report their sales to their packer-owner as formula sales, thus packer ownership does not appear explicitly in the table. There is a strong trend to use marketing contracts as firms get larger. Lawrence and Grimes found that three-fourths of hogs marketed by firms selling fewer than 3,000 head in 2000 were sold on the spot market. Less than 10% of hogs sold by the largest 156 firms were sold on the spot market in 2000. Mandatory price reporting data show that roughly 17% of barrows and gilts were sold on the spot market in the fall of 2001, implying that the rapid shift away from spot market sales is slowing.
Table 8. Packer purchases of barrows and gilts, January 2001.
|54%||formula off a public price|
|2%||window with a ledger|
|5%||window w/o a ledger|
|6%||futures market base|
|10%||feed cost base with a ledger|
|6%||feed cost base w/o a ledger|
A growing number of packers have gotten into hog production and vice versa. Of the nation’s eight largest hog producers, five are also major hog packers. Raising hogs not only provides packers with an assured supply of hogs with known characteristics, but the profitability of hog production and hog packing are inversely related. Thus, combining production with packing stabilizes income.
According to Lawrence and Grimes, in 2000 packers owned approximately 23% of U.S. slaughter hogs. Feed companies or feed dealers owned approximately 10% and veterinarians and genetic companies accounted for an additional 2% each. Their results suggest that 37% of U.S. slaughter hogs were owned by processors or input suppliers and the remaining 63% were owned by farmers.
Table 8. Packer purchases of barrows and gilts, January 2001. *30 firms slaughtered more than 1 million hogs in 2000. Source: USDA/NASS.
|Number of plants|
The number of hog packing plants continues to decline. Table 9 shows the number of federally inspected hog slaughter plants by size and year. The total number of federally inspected hog slaughter plants has declined from 1,388 in 1981 to 721 in 2000. As the number of plants declines, producers face longer hauls to get hogs to market.
Forces Driving Structural Change
Perhaps the strongest force driving the rapid pace of structural change is economies of size. Numerous studies indicate that larger hog operations can usually purchase needed inputs at a lower per unit cost, sell hogs at a higher price per pound, and are more resource efficient than smaller hog operations. Table 10 provides one set of numbers to support this latter statement. According to USDA’s quarterly hogs and pigs reports, large operations averaged 1.35 more pigs per litter in 2000 than did small hog operations. The increased efficiency appears to largely arise from the advantages associated with specialized labor.
Table 10. Pigs per litter by herd size, 2000. Source: USDA/NASS.
New technology and new production systems are also forces pressuring hog operations to get bigger. Artificial insemination, split-sex feeding, multiple-site production, and all-in/allout stocking are all recent developments that are easier toadopt when one is raising many hogs.
The U.S. pork industry continues to evolve toward fewer and larger producers who rely on contracts for both hog production and marketing. In 2000, over half of the hogs were from approximately 156 firms marketing more than 50,000 head annually. These producers finished 60% of their production in contract facilities. Over 90% of their marketings were under contract or were owned by a packer. These producers expressed a high level of satisfaction with hog production. They and contract growers were satisfied with production contracts. These large producers were satisfied with their marketing contracts and planned to continue them in the future.
The less than 5,000 head per year producers have been losing market share. The less than 1,000 head producers in particular have declined dramatically in number and production. Lawrence and Grimes found that smaller producers are less likely to use production or marketing contracts, artificial insemination, or sell on a carcass basis. The use of producer networking has leveled off or even declined among the less than 50,000 head producers. Marketing networks are more commonly used than other types of networks.
The smaller producers who survived the terrible financial adversity of 1998-99 are adopting the practices of larger producers. Smaller producers are rapidly increasing use of technology, such as artificial insemination and marketing contracts. While there will continue to be attrition from the ranks of smaller producers, there also will be those who continue successfully into the years ahead.
Lawrence, John and Glenn Grimes, Production and Marketing Characteristics of U.S. Pork Producers, 2000, Staff Paper 343, Department of Economics, Iowa State University, August 2001.
Grimes, Glenn, Hog Marketing Contract Study, Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Missouri-Columbia, March 12, 2001.