March 11, 2021
The number of cattle processed on Saturdays is an interesting set of data. Saturday slaughter might be thought of as a catch-up day or as a shock absorber for holiday shortened weeks. It has likely emerged as an important part of adjusting to Covid19. On the past, market analysts have used Saturday slaughter as an indicator of capacity utilization.
Looking back at the data over the last 30 years highlights that Saturday slaughter is highly cyclical and seasonal. As you might expect, it increases and contracts with cattle numbers reflecting the long-term cattle cycle, but it also moves with seasonal fed cattle supplies through the year.
So far, in 2021, 10.1 percent of weekly average cattle slaughter has been on Saturdays. That is up from the 5.7 percent of weekly slaughter over the same period in 2020. One might wonder if Saturday slaughter made up a larger percent of weekly slaughter following the pandemic. Only in the April-May period of 2020, what we might think of as the adjustment period, did Saturday slaughter make up a larger portion of weekly slaughter than in 2019, 9.8 percent in 2020 compared to 8.9 in 2019. Throughout the rest of 2020, Saturday cattle processing was a smaller percent of weekly cattle slaughter than the year before.
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