LIVESTOCK HIGHLIGHTS: Top Stories of the Day

TOP STORIES

Chicken Industry Executives, Including Pilgrim's Pride CEO, Indicted for Price Fixing

Four chicken industry executives were indicted Wednesday for allegedly conspiring to fix prices on chickens sold to restaurants and grocery stores, the Justice Department's first charges in a continuing criminal antitrust probe.

The one-count indictment, returned by a federal grand jury in Colorado, allege current and former senior executives at Pilgrim's Pride Corp. and Claxton Poultry Farms fixed prices and rigged bids from 2012 to 2017.

Campbell's Sales Rise on Coronavirus Buying

Campbell Soup Co. raised earnings expectations for its fiscal year after demand skyrocketed for its soup and snacks during the coronavirus pandemic.

Campbell said Wednesday that sales in its latest quarter jumped 17% on a comparable basis, including a 35% surge in U.S. soup sales -- the strongest performance by that metric in decades. But demand has exceeded Campbell's manufacturing capacity, causing it to lose market share in heat-and-eat soups.

The company's shares fell 4% to $49.73.

Ahold Delhaize: Food Lion Buys 62 US Stores From Southeastern Grocers

Koninklijke Ahold Delhaize NV said on Wednesday that its Food Lion brand was buying 62 BI-LO and Harveys Supermarket stores from Southeastern Grocers for an undisclosed amount.

The Netherlands-based owner of grocery chains such as Stop & Shop and Giant Food said that the stores were located in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, and they will be converted to Food Lion stores as part of the brand's continued expansion in the southeast of the U.S.

STORIES OF INTEREST

Cargill Closes a Window Into a Food Giant's Performance -- Market Talk

1157 ET - Cargill's decision to halt quarterly financial reporting and no longer disclose annual profits ends a practice that stretched back to 1996, and gave farmers, restaurant chains, packaged food makers and commodity-market speculators a window into one of the world's biggest food companies. Cargill's one of the biggest buyers of corn, soybeans, wheat and other crops, a top animal-feed producer and major meatpacker, processing beef and turkey in North America and chicken in Asia and Latin America. The company says its move, which comes after skipping a scheduled springtime earnings release due to the pandemic, frees up capital and aligns with other privately held companies' practices. (jacob.bunge@wsj.com; @jacobbunge)

Guidance for Protecting Farmworkers Falls Short, Critics Say -- Market Talk

1702 ET - Labor unions and worker advocacy groups say guidance issued by the Trump administration to protect farmworkers from coronavirus pales in comparison to what's needed as outbreaks grow on farms. OSHA and the CDC released recommendations for steps agricultural employers should take to prevent the virus' spread, including screening farmworkers for symptoms, encouraging the use of face coverings and conducting more rigorous cleaning of shared housing. But critics say the guidance -- which is voluntary -- falls short. "Guidance is a series of vague suggestions that growers can ignore with impunity," said Erik Nicholson, national vice president for United Farm Workers, a union. "The essential women and men employed in agriculture need binding rules and regulations that are clear... and enforceable." (jesse.newman@wsj.com; @jessenewman13)

FUTURES MARKETS

Hog Slide Extends Into June -- Market Talk

15:17 ET - A slide in lean hog futures beginning in May appears to have continued into June. Hog futures have shed over 11 cents per pound, or 17.9%, since May 4. "This is coming from the resumption of processing at packing plants in the US following Covid-19 outbreaks," says Karl Setzer of AgriVisor. "Packers are also facing a large backlog of hogs to process, and these are coming in at higher weights due to longer feeding times." CME July lean hogs futures closed trading Wednesday down 2.6% at 53.475 cents per pound. August live cattle futures finished 1.2% higher at 97.35 cents per pound. (kirk.maltais@wsj.com; @kirkmaltais)

CASH MARKETS

Estimated U.S. Pork Packer Margin Index - Jun 3

All figures are on a per-head basis.

Date     Standard Margin       Estimated margin
         Operating Index         at vertically -
                             integrated operations

Jun  3       +$ 79.85            +$ 26.97

Jun  2       +$ 77.96            +$ 25.59

Jun  1       +$ 94.19            +$ 40.23

* Based on Iowa State University's latest estimated cost of production.
A positive number indicates a processing margin above the cost of production of the animals.

Beef-O-Meter
This report compares the USDA's latest beef carcass composite
values as a percentage of their respective year-ago prices.

                                 Beef
          For Today             Choice  132.7
      (Percent of Year-Ago)     Select  133.6

USDA Boxed Beef, Pork Reports

Wholesale choice-grade beef prices Wednesday fell $22.83 per hundred pounds, to $295.90, according to the USDA. Select-grade prices fell $13.80 per hundred pounds, to $276.78. The total load count was 141. Wholesale pork prices rose 64 cents, to $74.28 a hundred pounds, based on Omaha, Neb., price quotes.


  (END) Dow Jones Newswires
  06-03-20 1739ET
  Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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