The 10 largest pork processors increased pork production capacity 3.7 percent this year from 2003 levels. This will help absorb the 104 million head record slaughter scheduled for this year, notes economists Steve Meyer and Len Steiner. Meyer is head of Paragon Economics in Adel, Iowa, and Steiner is president of Steiner Consulting Group in Manchester, N.H.

Eight of the top 10 processors increased their capacity, one remained unchanged and one decreased capacity, they said. Excel Corp. increased by the largest number of head, with Hatfield Quality Meats increasing by the largest percentage.

Most of the gains have occurred because of improvements in equipment and processing methods and, in some cases, refinements in hazard analysis and critical control points programs, Meyer and Steiner said. Only Hatfield's expansion was created by plant additions.

Smithfield Foods' expansion was a result of acquiring Farmland Foods.

The economists will publish a  complete list of all plants with a capacity of 250 head or more per day sometime later this fall.

Source: National Pork Producers Council