The amount of meat in cold storage continues to increase.

At the end of May, the total supply of beef, pork, chicken and turkey was 2.499 billion pounds, 8 percent higher than a year ago and 10.5 percent higher than the five-year average, according to economist Len Steiner and associates.

“This volume is only slightly lower than the all-time record established last fall, and normally freezer stocks move up between now and September,” they wrote in the “Daily Livestock Report” June 25.

“The effect of tariffs on U.S. pork has only started to be felt and will only get worse from here.”

In March, exports to China represented about 5 percent of total U.S. pork exports. Last week, that number dropped to zero.

Frozen pork supplies were up 5.7 percent from a year ago, but down 2 percent from April.

“In the past five years, May inventories have declined an average of 4 percent from April levels,” Steiner and associates said. “The supply of hams in cold storage seasonally increases between March and September.

“Ham inventories are in line with historical levels, but it remains to be seen if disruptions to trade with Mexico will cause more hams to back up in the freezer.”

Pork belly inventory continues to be low, although supplies were substantially higher than last May’s lows.

“Higher prices for bellies at the end of May likely encouraged end users to start to take some bellies out of the freezer,” Steiner and associates said.

“Processors expect ample supplies in the fall, so we expect a rush to deplete inventories in July and August. Already the price of bacon at retail is heading higher.”

Frozen beef supplies were up 13 percent from a year ago, and up 5.4 percent from the five-year average.

“Beef exports are running significantly higher than a year ago, and the increase in inventories may reflect higher export activity,” Steiner and associates said. “Beef imports in May were only modestly higher than the previous year.”

Chicken supplies in cold storage were up 11.8 percent from a year ago, and are running over 21 percent higher than the five-year average.

Jeff DeYoung is livestock editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.