Weekly global protein digest — US meat & egg labeling, Tyson plant closure, EU protein supply forecast

Livestock analyst Jim Wyckoff reports on protein news from around the world
calendar icon 15 March 2024
clock icon 25 minute read

USDA finalizes rules regarding the use of "Product of USA" and "Made in USA" labels for meat, poultry, and egg products

This rule clarifies conditions for making voluntary origin claims and adjusts the use of flags to designate origin. The requirements will take effect on Jan. 1, 2026.

The phrase proposed by USDA for the voluntary label remains as animals being "born, raised, processed, and slaughtered" in the U.S. If it's a multi-ingredient product, all ingredients except spices and flavorings must be of domestic origin. This decision was based on survey results, although the survey only covered pork and beef products.

Foreign trade associations and countries, including Canada and Mexico, raised concerns about the rule's impact on market integration and compliance with trade obligations. The Canadian Cattle Association has said it will be closely watching for any signs of discrimination against Canadian cattle, as Canada could potentially refer to the earlier World Trade Organization ruling on U.S. country-of-origin labeling (COOL). However, USDA argues that the rule is voluntary and doesn't establish mandatory country of origin labeling requirements.

The rule also addresses other claims regarding U.S. origin, such as products sliced or packaged in the U.S. or in a given state. It does not cover animal feed requirements. USDA insists that the program is voluntary, and claims that it will become "de facto commercially mandatory" are speculative.

There were concerns about the rule's impact on trade and compliance with WTO obligations, but USDA maintains that it is consistent with trade obligations and is voluntary. Verification activities will be performed by FSIS at establishments to ensure compliance with labeling requirements.

The rule will apply to cell-cultured meat under FSIS jurisdiction, with certain conditions. Non-compliant products will be documented, and corrective actions will be required before they can enter commerce.

Despite the finalized rule, questions remain about the adequacy of the survey used by USDA and concerns raised by foreign countries regarding trade obligations. Legal and other challenges may arise as the rule takes effect.

Tyson Foods announced the closure of its pork plant in Perry, Iowa

The closure will result in the loss of 1,276 jobs, with the plant scheduled to shut down on June 28. The plant, which processed approximately 9,000 hogs per day, cited a need to optimize operational efficiency to better serve customers as the reason for the closure. The United Food and Commercial Workers union represents a significant portion of the workers affected and intends to seek compensation for them. The plant has been in operation for around 60 years, and city officials are uncertain whether Tyson will consider selling the plant to another company. Tyson said it still employs 9,000 people in Iowa, and it has pork facilities in Waterloo, Storm Lake and Columbus Junction.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said Monday in a statement that “Tyson employees, the Perry community, and Iowa pork producers will have the full support of the state in the months leading up to the plant closure and after."

The Iowa Economic Development Authority and Iowa Workforce Development are "already engaged," Reynolds said. "We stand ready to assist impacted employees with finding new jobs in the area as soon as possible," with about 60,000 job openings posted on IowaWorks.gov.

US pork exports start 2024 strong, beef shipments slow

The US exported 587.8 million lbs. of pork during January. While that was down 56.1 million lbs. (8.7%) from December, which was the highest monthly tally since May 2021, pork shipments increased 32.0 million lbs. (5.8%) from January 2023. USDA raised its 2024 pork export forecast and now expects a 4.8% increase to 7.130 billion pounds. Beef exports totaled 232.6 million lbs. during January, down 19.8 million lbs. (7.8%) from December and 10.0 million lbs. (4.1%) less than last year. USDA forecasts beef exports will fall 9.1% from last year to 2.785 billion pounds.

USDA livestock and products semi-annual: China

Report Highlights: Economic headwinds will continue to impact consumption of both pork and beef in 2024. Swine and pork production in 2024 will be marginally down 3 percent as persistently low live hog and pork prices weigh on producers. However, pork imports may grow marginally to offset the forecasted decline in domestic pork production. Beef imports in 2024 could decline due to the high year-end inventory carried over into 2024 and an expected flat demand. Both swine and cattle imports could also decline due to financial challenges among producers. 2


Swine Production: Post revised its forecast of swine production in 2024 to 695 million head with a year-on-year (YOY) decline of 3 percent due to a lower sow inventory in 2023 compared to 2022. 

Swine Imports: Post revised up its forecast for swine imports in 2024 to 7,000 head based on higher-than-expected imports in 2023 despite difficult financial conditions for swine producers. Imports should still decline in 2024 from 2023 as financial difficulties and low prices continue to weigh on producers.

Pork Production: Post forecasts pork production to decline 3 percent in 2024 from fewer slaughters and lower inventory and slaughter weight of fattened swine. Pork Imports: Post forecasts pork imports in 2024 to grow marginally as imports offset the decline in domestic pork production.

Cattle Production: Post revised its forecast of calf production in 2024 down to 55 million head. The cattle herd growth is supported by government policies that encourage production, while lower beef cattle prices continue to curb the growth rate. 

Cattle Imports: Post’s forecast of cattle imports in 2024 remains the same with official USDA forecast at 125,000 head with a significant decline due to shrinking profits of beef cattle producers in 2023. 

Beef Production: The beef production forecast in 2024 remains at 7.7 MMT with a 2 percent growth YOY from a large number of finished cattle ready for slaughter. 

Beef Imports: Post revised its forecast of beef imports in 2024 down to 3.4 MMT with a decline of 5 percent due to a high year-end inventory carried over into 2024 and flat demand in 2024.

Swine Production to Decline Slightly

USDA revised swine production in 2024 to 695 million head with YOY decline of 3 percent due to a lower sow inventory in 2024 compared to 2023. Herd liquidation as a result of low swine and pork prices (see Chart 1 and Chart 4) and lingering animal diseases in 2023 are the two major reasons for the lower sow inventory. Swine producers started to expand swine production to rebuild their herds in 2020 and 2021 when African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreaks severely hurt the industry. The negative impacts of the large expansion of China’s swineherd manifested in 2023 when swine production exceeded market demand. Average swine prices remained low through 2023, causing losses across the swine breeding industry.

According to the National Development and Reform Commission, except for some slight profits from August to September, producers operated at a loss for most of 2023. The Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Affairs (MARA) indicated it was the first year since 2014 that swine producers suffered such large losses. Statistics of “breakeven” are from industry sources, not from the National Development and Reform Commission. Industry sources reported that ASF continued affecting the sector in 2023 especially in North China. The losses for producers and news of an ASF resurgence contributed to “panic” sales resulting in a reduction of inefficient sows.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported that the sow inventory had declined to 41.42 million at the end of 2023. Post forecasts swine production will decline in 2024. With fewer inefficient sows, the piglets weaned per sow per year (PSY) has improved. However, the improvement in PSY is unlikely to offset the lower average sow inventory in 2023. More small- and medium-sized producers exited the market due to inadequate cash flows and challenges in obtaining loans. With less swine production from smaller producers, NBS estimates the share of large-scale swine producers versus small- to mid-sized producers exceed 68 percent in 2023, with a YOY increase of about 3 percent.

Swine Imports Live Swine Imports to Remain Low 

Post revised up its forecast for swine imports in 2024 to 7,000 head, but imports will still moderately decline from 2023. China imports breeding swine to improve domestic herd genetics. Imported live swine only account for around 0.001 percent of the total swine population. Most swine producers continue to be under financial pressure, making it difficult to invest in herd improvements. Additionally, despite the falling sow and swine inventory, current sow levels are above the Peoples Republic of China’s (PRC) official targets. Industry contacts also believe current sow levels are sufficient. The main suppliers of live swine to China are the United States, Denmark, and France as they have different competitive advantages on litter size, body shape, lean meat rate, growth rate, and disease resistance. According to industry sources, swine from Denmark have the highest number of pigs per litter but lower PSY. Swine from the United States generally have larger body sizes, swine from Canada have good litter sizes, and swine from France have a good balance of growth rate and disease resistance. Swine Exports Flat to Marginal Recovery Post agrees with USDA’s official forecast for live swine exports in 2024 at 1.14 million head, with a marginal growth in exports to Hong Kong. Hong Kong and Macao will remain the top destinations for China’s live swine exports. Hong Kong is China’s largest export destination for live swine.

In 2023, Hong Kong’s hotel, restaurant, and institutional (HRI) sector and tourism industry gradually recovered as border controls eased between China and Hong Kong in late 2022 and early 2023, fueling increased imports of live swine from China for fresh pork meat. Post forecasts a continued, slow recovery in live swine exports to Hong Kong in 2024. Macao is China’s second major export destination albeit with a minimal volume. Exports to Macao have been stable over the years except during the pandemic. Post expects exports to Macao in 2024 to remain stable.

FAO food price index drops for seventh consecutive month

In February 2024, the FAO Food Price Index (FPI) reached its lowest level in three years at 117.3 index points, down from an upwardly revised 118.2 in January. Cereal prices saw a significant decline of 5%, driven by decreases in corn and wheat prices. Vegetable oil prices also fell by 1.3%, mainly due to lower prices for soy, sunflower, and rapeseed oils, despite slightly higher palm oil prices.

Conversely, dairy prices rose by 1.1% to a nine-month high, with butter prices experiencing the most significant increase. This uptick was supported by increased import demand from Asian buyers and a seasonal decrease in milk production in Oceania. Meat prices also saw an increase of 1.8%, marking a reversal from seven consecutive months of decline. Poultry meat and bovine prices saw the most significant increases in international price quotations.

Additionally, sugar prices rose by 3.2% for the second consecutive month due to ongoing concerns about the upcoming season in Brazil and forecasts predicting production declines in Thailand and India.

Bottom line: The FPI was at 124.7 in 2023 after reaching 144.7 in 2022 and 125.8 in 2021. If the trend in the index continues, it suggests the FPI will be headed to its lowest value in 2024 since it was at 98.1 in 2020.

USDA Livestock and Products Semi-annual: European Union

Cattle and Beef – The Herd Is Forecast to Shrink for the Eighth Successive Year in 2024. 

Herd Size and Calf Crop: The shrinkage of the cattle herd is most pronounced in the EU’s dairy herd, which declined significantly in France and Germany. The main reasons for this decline are high input prices, local droughts, the spread of the bluetongue virus, the sluggish demand for beef, and the continuous flow of new requirements imposed by the European Commission (EC). 

Slaughter and Trade: The declining supply of young animals is forecast to lower the slaughter level as well as the export of cattle. With the relatively stable calf crop in Central Europe and the Balkan region, exports of live cattle from these regions are forecast to remain strong. 

Beef Production: In 2023, the lower beef production was exacerbated by lower slaughter weights, and in 2024 anticipated to be offset by higher weights at slaughter. In effect, falling feed prices are anticipated to compensate for the lower slaughter levels this year and cause a soft landing of the declining EU beef production trend. 

Beef Domestic Sales and Trade: EU beef imports are projected to decline in 2024 due to lower food service sales, the switch to cheaper protein sources, and a lower supply from the United Kingdom, the principal beef exporter to the EU. With a lower domestic supply, EU beef exports are also forecast to fall in 2024. Poland is anticipated to expand its beef exports to EU and as third country markets, with Turkey as the main destination. 

Swine and Pork – EU Pork Supply Is Forecast to Rebound in 2024.

Herd Size and Pig Crop – The recent Eurostat December census reports an increase of the EU sow herd of 178,000 head in 2023, which indicates that the EU pig crop will likely recover this year. This expansion of the sow herd is triggered by record piglet and carcass prices combined with falling feed prices resulting in profitable margins for both fatteners and breeders. The pig crop is forecast to increase most significantly in Spain, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Poland. 

Slaughter and Trade: While in Denmark and the Netherlands part of the additional piglet supply will be exported to other EU Member States (MSs), in Spain and Poland, most of the additional supply will be fattened and slaughtered domestically. Overall, EU slaughter is forecast to increase by 1.5 percent this year. 

Pork Production: Combining the forecast slaughter level with slightly higher weights, total EU production is estimated to reach 21.2 MMT CWE in 2024. The production expansion is anticipated in Central Europe by increasing self-sufficiency, and in Western Europe, either by displacing pork in the EU domestic market, building commercial stocks, or potentially increasing sales at the global market. The third country export market is the driver for further growth of the EU swine sector. 

Pork Domestic Sales and Trade: Despite an overall downward trend, the increased supply of pork on the domestic market is anticipated to support a recovery of consumption in Central Europe and the Balkan region. In the short term, EU pork prices are not competitive on the world market. Nonetheless, the restructuring and improved profitability of the EU swine sector is anticipated to support the sector’s potential to export to third countries. If the most competitive Member States (Spain, Denmark, and the Netherlands), will increase their exportable supplies, the bulk of the export expansion will be directed to the traditional top markets (China, the United Kingdom, South Korea, the Philippines, and Japan).

The EU Cattle Herd Is Forecast to Shrink for the Eighth Successive Year in 2024. 

During 2023, the European Union’s (EU) cattle herd shrunk for the seventh successive year, but the pace of decline is slowing down. In 2021, 2022, and 2023, the annual reductions in the herd, as reported by the official Eurostat December census, were -1.11 percent, -1.18 percent, and -0.41 percent. FAS EU Posts project the cattle herd contraction at -0.31 percent this year. The decline is most pronounced in the EU’s dairy herd, which declined most significantly in France and Germany. Significant reductions are furthermore reported in Italy, the Netherlands, Central Europe, and the Balkan region. Exceptions are Ireland and Poland where the dairy cow herd is forecast to further grow in 2024 (see the FAS EU Dairy Annual, published October 23, 2023). Throughout the EU, the dairy sector is facing slim margins due to the falling milk prices. Another factor is the spread of the bluetongue virus (BTV-3), which leads to a drop in milk yield and fertility problems. There is currently no approved vaccination against this specific type of the virus. Industry sources in Germany and the Netherlands report that a vaccine should be available soon, but nothing is confirmed at present. On February 22, 2024, the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture rejected the approval for a South African vaccine against BTV-3 based on concerns regarding its efficacy and production quality.

In Central Europe a Slight Expansion of the Beef Cow Herd Is Anticipated in 2024. 

The course of the beef cow herd numbers differs between Western and Central Europe. While in Western Europe significant reductions are reported, in particular in Ireland, France, and Spain, the beef cow is stabilizing in Central Europe. This difference is mainly caused by the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the EU. In most western EU Member States (MS), such as France, the farmer’s income is pre-dominantly based on the farmed hectares. While in Central Europe, CAP support is provided specifically to small cattle farmers, representing a larger voting potential. This specific sector support, combined with record high carcass prices (see graph below), and recently falling feed prices (see graph below and the FAS EU Grain and Feed Quarterly, published on December 5, 2023) is forecast to support a slight rebound of calf production and herd expansion in Central Europe. Another trend reported in this region is the switch from dairy to beef production, driven by the generally higher investment and labor intensity of dairy farming. At the same time, the popularity of local dual breeds (dairy and beef) is noticeable, due to its flexibility in adapting to market conditions and longer productive period.

The EU Beef Cattle Herd Is Forecast to Shrink Due to Both Market and Policy Factors. 

In Western Europe the beef cattle herd continued to decline in 2023 due to the lack of specific and structural support for the sector. The drop in the herd size is most pronounced in Spain, where the sector was hit by a severe drought, causing a shortage of fodders and forages. For more information see the GAIN Report - Spanish Cattle Production May Decline Driven by Reduction of Exports and Drought, published June 5, 2023). The structural unprofitability of the beef sector has been further exacerbated by high energy prices, high interest rates, labor shortages, and the lack of successors. The fact that record high carcass prices (see graph above) have not reversed the curb of the herd contraction explains the economic viability of the sector. As earlier outlined in the EU Livestock Annual, new EU regulations are creating investment uncertainties for farmers, especially those related to the Green Deal, the Veterinary Medicine Legislation, and the new EU Animal Welfare Legislative Roadmap (for more information see the Policy section of this report). The continuous flow of new requirements imposed by the European Commission (EC) are requiring financial investments and a change of farm management, pressing profit margins even further. The policies are causing farmer protests throughout the EU. Due to these market and policy factors, the total EU beef cow herd is forecast to further shrink in 2024.

Due to a Falling Domestic Supply, EU Cattle Exports Are Forecast to Decline This Year. 

The exports of live cattle to third countries are an important revenue for cattle farmers in Central Europe (Czech Republic, Romania, and Hungary), the Balkan region (Croatia and Bulgaria), and the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal). Between 2015 and 2020, Turkey was the main destination for EU cattle exports. This position was taken over by Israel in 2021 and 2022. In 2023, trade flows switched, making Turkey the top destination for EU cattle exports again. Demand in Turkey led to a surge in exports to this country during January-October 2023 at the expense of other markets, such as Israel, Jordan, and Serbia. The elevated EU live cattle exports to Turkey are based on the limited domestic supply of beef. In January 2024, the Turkish government established an import quota for feeder cattle at 600,000 head (725,000 head in 2023). This number may be increased during the year as determined by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the Turkish Milk and Meat Board (ESK) depending on market conditions.

With the stable calf production in Central Europe and the Balkan region, exports of live cattle from these regions are forecast to remain strong. But falling supply of young animals in Western Europe is forecast to limit the exports of live cattle to the United Kingdom and Morocco. Due to the overall decline of the supply of young animals, EU cattle exports are forecast to fall about nine percent this year. New animal welfare legislation, which is expected this or next year, has the potential to further restrict live cattle exports to third countries (for more information, see the Policy section of this report).

The Falling Supply of Calves Will Also Result in a Lower Slaughter Level in 2024. 

With the declining supply of young animals as well EU slaughter is inevitably trending down. During 2023, total official slaughter fell by 3.4 percent. In absolute terms, the most significant reductions reported by Eurostat were in Italy, France, and Spain. In 2024, slaughter is forecast to fall or at least stabilize in almost all EU Member States. A slight increase of slaughter is forecast in Italy, which is a recovery from the drop in 2023. The lower supply of young animals will also result in a further decline of the EU cattle herd to 74.3 million animals by the end of calendar year 2024.

During 2023, slaughter of swine in official slaughterhouses fell by 7.36 percent. Swine slaughter was cut in all 27 EU Member States. In absolute terms the most significant reductions reported by Eurostat were in the western EU Member States, and most significantly in Spain, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and France. The primary question in the EU swine sector is whether slaughter reached its low point in 2023, or if the decline will continue in 2024. The cuts made by the sector in 2022 and 2023 combined were major; the piglet production was cut by 10.6 percent, and slaughter by 12.0 percent.

However, the contraction of the herd size came nearly to a standstill in 2023, which is a clear sign the swine cycle reached its low point. This is also reflected by the record prices paid for sows, piglets, and carcasses (see graph below). The further direction of EU slaughter will mainly be determined by the opportunities at the export market. The export market for EU pork is the driver for growth of the EU swine sector, which is also a distinct difference with the EU beef sector which lacks a profitable and sizeable outlet for beef in third countries. Increased supply for the EU domestic market will displace local pork production of the less competitive producers as EU domestic pork consumption has been dwindling since 2018. A domestic oversupply of pork could also result in commercial or subsidized private stock building as earlier reported in 2021 (for more information see the Pork section of this report). Despite High Profits, the Dutch and Belgian Sectors Are Constraint by Nitrogen Regulations. The question remains if the EU swine sector has the potential to compete at the global market. The Spanish, Dutch, and Danish swine sectors are the most competitive producers in the EU, and the top three exporters to third countries.

In these three EU MSs, recent positive fattening margins could serve as an incentive to expand the size of the hog herd. The income boost is based on the higher prices paid to the farmer for carcasses combined with the recent lower prices paid by the farmer for feed and energy. Statistics (Dutch language) from Wageningen University (WUR) reveal that the average Dutch swine farmer’s income rose from €124,000 in 2022 to €369,000 in 2023. The income of swine breeders rose even higher, from €58,000 in 2022 to €558,000 in 2023. This income boost is forecast to support a recovery of Dutch piglet production in 2024. However, significant and structural production expansion in the Netherlands is constrained by strict environmental regulations. The Dutch Government has two funding programs in place with a total budget of €1.5 billion to tempt intensive livestock farmers to sell out their farms, in an effort to bring the national nitrogen emissions down.

Spain, the largest pork exporter in the world in 2022 (in CWE), has proven to be the EU MS with the most export potential. But as with the Danish and Dutch sector, the Spanish swine sector has taken a step back in response to the lower demand from China. In 2023, Spanish slaughter declined by 6.5 percent. Other reasons for the downsizing of slaughter were the increased feed and energy prices, elevated interest rates, and tightening environmental, animal health, and animal welfare legislation. In addition, Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) outbreaks were reported in Catalonia and Aragon. In 2023, producers improved their sanitary status management, and were able to bring PRRS outbreaks under control. The improved sanitary status is also expected to result in an improved piglet/sow ratio in 2024.

Spanish Swine and Pork Production Driven Down by Lower Exports and Animal Welfare Regulations. 

While, according to the Spanish sector, this downward trend in swine and pork production may continue in 2023 and 2024, feed and energy prices have come down, and profit margins improved, making further investments and expansion of the capacity possible. Recent Eurostat statistics reveal an expansion of the Spanish sow herd in 2023 by more than five percent, which is anticipated to increase the Spanish pig crop and support domestic slaughter in 2024.

The expansion of the sow herd could also point to a higher self-sufficiency of piglets, and a lower dependency on imports from Northern Europe (the Netherlands and Denmark). As discussed, additional volumes of pork will in the first and foremost, displace volumes at the domestic market. But the during the past decade, the Spanish sector has heavily invested in marketing their product abroad (for more information see the Pork section of this report).

The Restructuring of the German and French Swine Sector Is Forecast to Continue in 2024. 

The condition of the swine sector in Germany is typical for most other less competitive EU MSs sectors. The German sector suffered from African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreaks in the country’s wild boar population which resulted in an import ban from China. But after sharp declines in pork production in recent years, there are signs of a slight stabilization in 2023 and 2024. The main reason for this stabilization was the high prices producers received in 2023 and start of 2024.

Some industry experts believe that the exit wave of recent years was merely paused by the high prices but has not yet reached its end. Farmers continue to face major challenges due to ever-increasing demands from consumers and new legal requirements regarding animal welfare and transportation. As of 2025, a new mandatory national livestock labelling system for fattening pigs will apply. The introduction was generally welcomed by the industry since it could contribute to more animal welfare, taking the social pressure of hog farmers. Nonetheless, a solid funding concept for the conversion of farms is still missing and therefore farmers are still missing a real perspective. According to a survey (German language) conducted by the ISN almost a third of German sow farmers is planning to phase out sows in the next five to ten years.

The Swine Sector in Central Europe Is Concentrating and Forecast to Increase Production. 

Despite that pork is the preferred meat, most countries in Central Europe and the Balkan region are not self-sufficient of pork. The main net pork importers in this region are Romania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, and Bulgaria. Although ASF remains a prevalent feature of the swine sector in Central Europe, the outbreaks have fallen, and some MS sectors increased their investments for further commercialization of their operations to reduce the import share in the consumption. Based on this development, the Romanian pig crop production is expected to slightly increase in 2024. Because backyard farming plays an outsized role in the spread of ASF, the Romanian government approved the ‘Pig Law’ in April 2023, which prohibits breeding in Romanian backyard farms. Because fattening remains allowed, this law is not anticipated to have much of an effect on eradicating ASF.

Weekly USDA dairy report

CME GROUP CASH MARKETS (3/8) BUTTER: Grade AA closed at $2.8025. The weekly average for Grade AA is $2.8115 (+$0.0100). CHEESE: Barrels closed at $1.4875 and 40# blocks at $1.4600. The weekly average for barrels is $1.5860, (-$0.0760) and blocks, $1.4920 (-$0.1020). NONFAT DRY MILK: Grade A closed at $1.1700. The weekly average for Grade A is $1.1670 (-$0.0240). DRY WHEY: Extra grade dry whey closed at $0.4100. The weekly average for dry whey is $.4140 (-$0.0345).

BUTTER HIGHLIGHTS: Retail and food service demand vary across the country. For the Central region, overall butter demand is noted as steady, and contacts relayed seasonally moderate retail demand. For the East, contacts conveyed steady to stronger overall butter demand and strengthening retail demand ahead of spring holidays. For the West, strong to steady retail demand and steady to lighter food service demand is indicated. Cream is readily available throughout the nation, but some stakeholders say cream is starting to be tighter than in recent weeks. Butter churning schedules are lighter in the Central region and strong in the rest of the country. Some butter makers note tight unsalted inventory for Q1/Q2 spot purchasing. Bulk butter overages range from 3 to 12 cents above market, across all regions.

CHEESE HIGHLIGHTS: Cheese plant managers in the eastern U.S. relay steady cheese production schedules. Contacts anticipate growing milk availability in the coming weeks as spring break school closures begin. Contacts continue to share that block cheese demand is light. Retail demand is steady, and contacts expect spring holiday demand to increase in the coming weeks. Cheesemakers in the Central region share cheese demand has already begun to pick up, with strong sales expected by the end of March. Plant downtime, due to scheduled maintenance, has freed up some milk supplies. Spot milk prices were reported as low as $3.50-under Class III. In the West, Class III spot milk load availability varies from area to area. Cheese manufacturers relay steady production schedules. Some contacts say they are primarily making cheese to fulfill contractual obligations. Spot loads of cheese are available for buyers.

FLUID MILK: Milk production throughout the country is generally trending seasonally higher. Some areas in the West are reporting steadiness, but in other Western locales and throughout Central and Eastern states, weather conducive to cow comfort is pushing more milk and components into industry channels. Spring break is drawing near in many school districts in the country, and Class I demand has ebbed some, as more milk is beginning to make its way into alternative Classes. Cheesemakers in the Upper Midwest reported spot milk prices from $3.50-under Class to $1-over. Last year, during week 10, spot milk prices ranged from $12- to $4-under Class. Condensed skim availability is starting to grow, as well. Plant downtime in Classes III and IV have also been noted by contacts as a factor in growing milk availability. Cream availability is, and has been, quite available, but demand from the Class II sector is beginning to pull from the overall cream pool. F.O.B. cream multiples are 1.05-1.27 in the East, 1.12-1.27 in the Midwest, and 1.00-1.21 in the West.

DRY PRODUCTS: Low/medium heat nonfat dry milk (NDM) prices are under some bearish pressure. Contacts say inventories are not loose, but demand has been noticeably quiet in recent weeks. High heat NDM prices were steady to higher in the Central/East, while steady to lower in the West region. Dry buttermilk prices were unchanged in the Central and East regions, while they moved lower in the West. Condensed buttermilk availability is hearty in the Central/ East, with active churning and bolstered cream availability throughout the first months of 2024. Dry whole milk prices moved higher, as inventories are noted as tight. Dry whey prices were steady to lower in all regions. Whey market tones are uncertain moving deeper into Q2. Whey protein concentrate 34% and lactose prices were steady to higher this week. Acid casein prices moved lower, as Oceania contacts reported steady to lighter demand. Rennet casein prices also moved lower.

ORGANIC DAIRY MARKET NEWS: The National Organic Standards Board Spring 2024 Meeting materials are now available online. The public comment period and oral comment registration for the meeting is now open, and the deadline to register is 11:59 p.m. ET on April 3, 2024. The National Organic Program's Strengthening Organic Enforcement rule's implementation date is March 19, 2024. The number of organic dairy ads declined during the last two retail surveys. In order, the top 5 most advertised organic dairy commodities this week were yogurt, milk, flavored milk, cheese, and cottage cheese. Organic yogurt overtook milk as the most advertised organic commodity this week due to an increase in the number of yogurt ads and decrease in milk ads.

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