Slaughter for the last three weeks has been down 2 percent based on preliminary data, say Glenn Grimes and Ron Plain, University of Missouri agricultural economists.

Hog prices has increased substantially with the smaller slaughter. Spot market live hog prices are $7-$10 per cwt above a year earlier and negotiated carcass base prices are $12-$13 per cwt above a year ago.

The economists think it is obvious that the more inelastic demand for live hogs is being reflected in current supply-price relationships.

Grimes and Plain expect slaughter to continue to run down 1 percent to 3 percent through June, then be down 3 percent to 5 percent for the third quarter. They believe August prices at terminal markets could be $10-$13 per cwt higher this year than in 2002.

The economists say the more inelastic demand for live hogs is at the slaughter level. Retail prices in March were nearly 9 cents per pound below March 2002, and the odds are high for both April and May prices to still be below 2002 levels.