Cattle Outlook: Retail Beef Prices Still High

US - Retail beef prices rose in November for the fourth consecutive month and set a new record for the third consecutive month, writes Ron Plain, University of Missouri.
calendar icon 29 December 2011
clock icon 3 minute read
Ron Plain
Ron Plain

The average price of choice beef in grocery store meat cases in November was $5.001 per pound. That was up 6.8 cents from the October record and up 51.7 cents from November 2010.

The average retail price of all fresh beef also was record high at $4.504 per pound in November. Since the per capita beef supply is expected to be four to five per cent lower in 2012, many more months of record retail beef prices are likely in the coming year.

Packer margins continue to be very tight. The October farm to wholesale price spread (23.2 cents) was the lowest since November 2004.

 The November spread was higher (30.5 cents) but still the second lowest since February 2010. The declining cattle herd (the 2011 US calf crop was smaller than the year before for the 16th consecutive year) has left us with surplus slaughter capacity. Since no turnaround in cattle numbers is likely soon, the closing of another cattle kill plant is likely.

The average live weight price of slaughter steers in November was a record $123.50/cwt, up $3.20 from the October record.

There was 438 million pounds of beef in cold storage at the end of November, up 0.5 per cent from a year earlier.

Fed cattle prices jumped this week to the second highest weekly average ever. The 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold through Thursday of this week on a live weight basis was $125.38/cwt, up $6.56 from last week and $22.91/cwt above the same week last year.

 Steers sold on a dressed weight basis averaged $201.42/cwt, $7.38 higher than the week before and $37.79 above a year ago.

Beef cutout value was also higher this week. On Friday morning, the choice boxed beef carcass cutout value was $192.28/cwt, up $1.96 from last week. The select carcase cutout was up $3.29 from the previous Friday to $176.42 per hundred pounds of carcase weight. The choice-select spread, $15.87, was down $1.31 from a week earlier. The cutout value of choice steers is $9.14/cwt below the dressed weight cattle price.

This week’s cattle slaughter totaled 598,000 head, down 6.9 per cent from the week before but up 9.7 per cent compared to a year ago. The average steer dressed weight for the week ending 10 December was 853 pounds, down two pounds from the week before and also down two pounds from a year ago.

Cash bids for feeder cattle around the country this week were mostly $4 lower to $4 higher than the week before. Prices this week at Oklahoma City were $2 lower to $2 higher with price ranges for medium and large frame #1 steers: 400-450# $192.50-$194, 450-500# $163-$166, 500-550# $155.50-$165, 550-600# $150.50-$161, 600-650# $144-$154, 650-700# $143.50-$153, 700-750# $141-$147, 750-800# $139-$148, 800-900# $131-$138 and one small group of 900-1000# at $131/cwt.

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