Labor negotiations at West Coast ports in the United States are largely to blame for unusually high inventories of frozen chicken, one agricultural economist said.

Inventories of frozen chicken are at their highest levels in years, according to the USDA’s Cold Storage report, released on February 20. The USDA pegged January's total chicken inventory at 730.1 million pounds, up 6 percent from January 2014 and a four-year high for January.

However, the surplus of meat products in cold storage is not limited to chicken. Beef and pork supplies are also higher, according to the report.

Ron Plain, a University of Missouri livestock economist, told Reuters the glut of poultry, beef and pork in cold storage is largely because of the United States’ inability to export meat and poultry off the West Coast.


On the same day the USDA released its Cold Storage report, the two parties involved in the port backups reached a tentative agreement. The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) reached an agreement on a new five-year contract covering workers at all 29 West Coast ports.

But even with an agreement in place, it could take several weeks or even months to clear the backlog, which could keep a lid on domestic meat prices until then, experts have said.