Prices for U.S. cattle and hogs plus shares of top U.S. meat companies sped lower on Thursday, amid worries that turmoil in the U.S. credit markets could snowball and hurt meat sales both here and overseas, economists said.
"Consumer spending would be affected...there could be a reduction in demand because of the credit crunch," said Jacinto Fabiosa, a director at the U.S. Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute in Ames, Iowa.
The United States exports about 15 percent of its chicken and pork and about 5 percent of its beef. A major concern is that the credit issues will hurt overseas economies which could hurt U.S. exports and spark an expansion in meat supplies.
"If it hits a country where a significant portion of their income is spent on food, then the ripple effect in that country will be significant," said Fabiosa.
If those countries are major importers of U.S. products, the effect would be felt here, he said.