Retail pork prices set a new record in April. The average price of pork in grocery stores last month was $3.377 per pound, up 2.0 cents from March, up 45.8 cents from April 2010, and 1.4 cents above the old record high set in October 2010. The seasonal pattern is for retail pork prices to trend higher until August. However, packer margins usually widen after May, lessening the benefit for hog producers of higher retail pork prices. The farmer's share of the retail price was 34.9% in April, the highest of any month since last May and the highest April since 1997.

The national average negotiated carcass price for direct delivered hogs on the morning report today was $92.13/cwt, up $2.75 from last Friday. The eastern corn belt average price this morning was $91.41/cwt while the western corn belt average was $94.42/cwt. Iowa-Minnesota hogs averaged $94.55/cwt on the morning report, the second highest morning price ever behind Thursday morning's $96.38/cwt. Friday's top live hog price at Peoria was $65/cwt. Zumbrota's top was $63/cwt. The top for interior Missouri hogs was $64.50/cwt, up $1.50 from the previous Friday.

The pork cutout value is higher for the second consecutive week. Monday's cutout, $98.31/cwt, was a record. USDA's Thursday afternoon calculated pork cutout value was $96.61/cwt, up $1.61 from the previous Thursday. Hams, loins, butts, and bellies were all higher. This morning's national average hog carcass price was 95% of the pork cutout value. That is higher than normal. Tight margins may eventually force packers to cut their schedules in the face of fewer hogs. The first 3-day weekend of the summer is coming up. How well meat sells for Memorial Day is often a good indicator for summer demand.

Hog slaughter totaled 2.021 million head this week, up 2.2% from the week before and up 0.5% compared to the same week last year. Year-to-date hog slaughter is down 1.2%, but due to heavier weights year-to-date pork production is up 1.0%.

Barrow and gilt carcass weights for the first week of May averaged 204 pounds, 1 pound lighter than a week earlier, but 3 pounds heavier than a year ago. Iowa-Minnesota live weights for barrows and gilts last week averaged 270.8 pounds, down 0.9 pounds from the week before, but up 0.5 pounds compared to the same week last year. This is the closest Iowa-Minnesota weights have been to the year-ago level since September.

The June lean hog futures contract ended the week at $91.97/cwt, down $2.58 from the previous Friday. The July contract settled Friday at $92.32/cwt, down $1.53 for the week. August hogs settled at $93.50 and October hogs ended at $86.50/cwt.

USDA's latest crop progress report estimates 63% of the corn acres were planted by May 15, down from 87% planted on that date last year and a 5-year average of 75% planted. The July corn futures contract gained 77 cents this week to end at $7.595/bushel. December corn ended the week at $6.665/bushel.