Fourth-quarter commercial pork production is expected to be year-over-year lower, deriving as it does from lower pig crops. But as has been the story for most of 2014, higher average dressed weights will help to offset lower fourth-quarter slaughter numbers. Pork production is expected to be about 6 billion pounds, almost 4 percent below a year earlier. For 2014, total pork production is expected to be 22.8 billion pounds, about 1.8 percent below production in 2013.

The higher inventory of breeding animals, along with strong producer farrowing intentions, improving litter rates, and slightly higher expected dressed weights, all point to higher pork production next year. USDA is forecasting 2015 commercial pork production at 23.9 billion pounds, more than 5 percent above production this year.

Average prices of live equivalent 51-52 percent lean hogs are expected to be $72- $74 in the fourth quarter of this year. Prices next year will likely average $63-$68, more than 15 percent below 2014. While 2015 hog prices are likely to be lower than prices this year, lower feed costs and strong demand from both domestic and foreign pork consumers will likely keep the spread between hog prices and feed costs in the black. U.S. consumers, in particular, will likely continue to increase demand for pork as a substitute for exceptionally high-priced beef products.