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Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Thanks to declining production and bullish expectations for greater demand and more grocery shopping, prices of lean hogs are through the roof in 2021 and have become the world's top-performing major asset.

What's happening: Prices have risen by more than 60% over the past year, with the overwhelming majority of that growth taking place in 2021 (up 50% year to date), as the commodity has broken out since January.

  • Prices rose to their highest since Sept. 2014 last week and there's still room to run, experts say.

How it works: USDA recently revised its forecast of U.S. per capita pork consumption to 52.5 pounds per person for this year, the highest it has been since 1981.

  • Concurrently, USDA’s latest hogs and pigs report shows inventory down about 3% from last quarter and 1.8% from last March. That's the first March-over-March reduction since 2014, according to Jason Franken, agricultural economist at Western Illinois University.
  • “With continued strong grocery store demand and further prospects for restaurant re-openings as more U.S. citizens are vaccinated against COVID-19, the market looks promising,” Franken tells the Farm Journal. 

Don't sleep: There also appears to be plenty of room in cold storage, Franken says. According to the latest USDA cold storage report, cold stocks of pork are up 7% from the previous month but down 24% from a year ago.

  • That's well above the change for poultry — stocks are down 3% from the prior month and 14% from a year ago — and beef — down 2% from the prior month, but up 3% from last year. 

The big picture: The supply/demand mismatch along with consistently lower slaughter rates are pushing expectations higher and putting a floor under prices.

Go deeper

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Congress hunts for shortcut to pass defense funding, debt limit combo

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer returned to his office Monday. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The scramble in Congress to pass the National Defense Authorization Act is being complicated by an effort to tie it to a needed hike in the federal debt limit.

Why it matters: The House and Senate are rapidly coming up against a series of deadlines they must address before the end of the year — or risk disrupting crucial military funding and upending the economy. Congressional leaders are now hoping they can knock out both "must-pass" priorities in one, complex swoop.

Scoop: Inside Jake Sullivan's call with U.S. hostages' families

Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

National security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke last week with relatives of U.S. hostages and others wrongfully detained abroad, after more than two dozen families expressed frustrations about their inability to get a meeting with him or President Biden, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Participants on the video call, which began at 7pm ET Friday and lasted more than an hour, told Axios they didn't get satisfactory answers to many of their questions. Nonetheless, they were encouraged by Sullivan's commitment to follow up and pledge to be personally available to them and others going forward.

3 hours ago - World

Biden huddles with European allies on Ukraine ahead of Putin call

Putin in the Kremlin. Photo: Grigory Sysoyev/Sputnik via Getty

President Biden will seek to convince Russia's Vladimir Putin in a phone call Tuesday that the price of invading Ukraine would be steeper than anything he's faced in the past.

Driving the news: Biden held a call on Ukraine this evening with the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and the U.K., while Secretary of State Tony Blinken called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to offer America's "unwavering support."