I found this article in the Wall Street Journal. Great news for BBQ
COMMODITIESUpdated March 20, 2013, 4:37 p.m. ET.Hog Prices Fall on Lean Demand .
By IAN BERRY
CHICAGO—Hog prices fell to a 4½-month low, pressured by sluggish demand for pork among U.S. consumers and importers such as China and Japan.
Lean hogs for April, the front-month contract, slipped 0.35 cent, or 0.4%, to 77.875 cents a pound at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, as traders speculated Wednesday that slowing pork exports will cause U.S. supplies to swell. The price was the lowest settlement since Nov. 6.
Japan, typically the U.S.'s largest customer, has been importing less pork because of a struggling economy and weak currency, which has made it more expensive for its importers to buy U.S. pork.
Hog prices have slumped nearly 12% since early February, due in part to U.S. consumers switching from pork to cheaper meats such as chicken. Analysts point to economic pressures on consumers, including a rise in gasoline prices and the expiration in January of the payroll-tax holiday.
Prices also have fallen because traders had expected U.S. pork exports to be stronger this year. The volume of pork exported from the U.S. fell 15% in January from a year earlier, as China, Japan, Mexico and other big buyers of U.S. pork cut back, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation, a trade group.
The U.S. pork industry has become reliant on exports in recent years, reflecting in part China's growth in population and meat consumption. But while China, the world's biggest consumer of pork, was importing large amounts just 18 months ago, it has since built up its own hog supply and is relying less on U.S. supplies, analysts said.
"They're not buying the pork, and we're ending up with plenty of pork here," said Art Liming, a futures specialist with Citigroup Inc. C -1.87%in Chicago.
Japan, typically the U.S.'s largest customer, has been importing less pork because of a struggling economy and weak currency, which has made it more expensive for its importers to buy U.S. pork. Russia, meanwhile, stopped importing U.S. pork in February, citing concerns about the medicated feed additive ractopamine, which is widely used in the U.S. to produce leaner meat.
Foreign importers bought 27% of the pork produced in 2012 in the U.S., up from just 7% in 2000, according to the Meat Export Federation.
U.S. pork production this year has fallen 2% from year-ago levels, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but that cut in supplies has been more than offset by lower exports, resulting in a rise in domestic pork inventories.
Typically, pork demand starts to pick up this time of year as the spring grilling season and the Easter holiday approach. But even as food retailers were stocking up on hams ahead of the March 31 Easter holiday in recent weeks, wholesale prices for ham declined, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture figures, said John Kleist, senior analyst with brokerage Ebottrading.com in Lakemoor, Ill.
Cold weather across much of the Midwest and East Coast has added to the pressure on the market, as consumers have no reason to buy meat for the warmer grilling season, Mr. Kleist said.