NASHVILLE, Tenn.—The 2018 outlook for the U.S. livestock and poultry sectors is generally positive. There are, however, concerns for both markets as uncertainty looms around trade agreements, said James Robb, director and senior livestock economist for the national Livestock Marketing Information Center. Speaking during the 2018 American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention, Robb said demand for meat has increased. Americans are expected to consume about 219 pounds of red meat and poultry annually, which is the most since 2007, Robb noted, and quality will continue to be an important factor. “Beef sells well more than other products because consumers are willing to pay a premium,” he explained. “Consumers don’t care about the cost of production, and they won’t pay the premium for beef if the quality isn’t there.” He noted that beef products, when compared to pork and chicken, have improved dramatically. “Pork wants to have grading guidelines like beef to improve their product.” Exports have added value for cattle producers—adding an extra $66 per head. But uncertainty centers around deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement and the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement. Tony Banks, a commodity marketing specialist for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, said the livestock and poultry sectors recently have overcome drought and disease issues that not only challenged their ability to produce meat supplies, but also sent sharp price increases through the markets to consumers. “Lower feed costs have aided these sectors’ ability to rebound production and benefit retail prices for consumers,” he explained. “Lower fuel prices and an improving economy are helping improve consumer confidence, which benefits retail meat sales.” According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, domestic red meat, beef and pork production all hit new monthly highs back in November 2017. For the first 11 months of last year red meat production was 3 percent ahead of last year’s record pace, totaling 47.57 billion pounds as of November. Year-to-year beef production is 4 percent higher, and pork production is 3 percent higher than last year. Media: Contact Banks at 804-290-1114 or Sara Owens, VFBF communications, at 804-290-1133.