KANSAS CITY (Dow Jones)--Wholesale pork prices jumped again this week, extending the steep gains for a third-consecutive week.

A smaller weekly slaughter and stronger-than-expected gains in cash hog prices to secure those supplies fueled the pork advances, said brokers and market analysts.

They said hog slaughter during the week-ended April 9 was down more than 5% from a year ago, but retail, foodservice and further-processed meat buyers were not too concerned because the reduction was due in large part to the Easter holiday. Several plants were dark on April 5. In addition, there were some revisions in daily slaughters just ahead of the early closure of fresh pork operations at the John Morrell plant in Sioux City, Iowa, on April 8.

Some, possibly many, of the meat buyers may have been caught by surprise when daily slaughters this week were held to under 410,000 head and none of the larger plants operated on Saturday. Despite the reduced slaughters, packers also had to pay considerably more for the hogs.

Back-to-back short weeks for slaughter further supported the bullishly-construed quarterly hogs and pigs report that was released on March 26.

After weekly slaughters in March averaged about 0.7% below a year ago, April is off to nearly a 5% shortfall from last year.

Some analysts also said with prices for each of the three main protein categories--beef, pork and chicken--up from a year ago and less total meats and poultry in the nation's freezers, pork prices should move up and keep pace with gains in hogs.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's pork carcass composite value Friday was quoted at $85.34, a gain of $5.83 for the week and $14.58, or 20.6%, since March 26.

Analysts said the pork prices should move higher again next week based on wide premiums that are built into lean hog futures in the May through August contracts.

April lean hogs expired at 77.80 cents a pound on Thursday. On Friday, May hogs closed at 86.42 cents and June at 86.15.


CATTLE/HOG SLAUGHTERS


This week's cattle slaughter was estimated at 632,000 head, compared with 616,000 a week ago and 608,000 year ago. Year-to-date cattle slaughter is up 1.4% from a year ago.

The week's hog slaughter estimate was 2.032 million head, compared with 2.017 million a week ago and 2.124 million a year ago. For the year, hog slaughter is off 4.5%.


TOTAL MEAT PRODUCTION


The USDA estimated total beef, pork and lamb production for the week at 899.7 million pounds. Last week's output was 885.6 million pounds, and the year-ago figure was 910.5 million pounds. Year-to-date combined meat output is down 2.9%.

Broiler/fryer slaughter for the week was estimated at 161.863 million head, compared with 160.053 million a week ago and 155.008 million a year ago.


-By Curt Thacker, Dow Jones Newswires; 913-322-5178; curt.thacker@dowjones.com