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CME: Retail Beef Prices Higher in November

16 December 2019

US - Retail beef prices were higher in November and, judging from the gains in the choice beef cutout during the last few weeks, we would expect retail price inflation to continue to climb in December and January, writes Steiner Consulting Group, DLR Division, Inc.

Monthly price inflation data is published monthly by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and USDA-ERS compiles a special report on meat prices. According to it, the average price of beef at retail in November was $6.065/lb., 2.9 percent higher than the previous month and 2.6 percent higher than the previous year.

The choice beef cutout in November was up 7.9 percent from the previous month and 10 percent higher than a year ago. Given the lags in price transmission, we think the higher November wholesale prices will be reflected in December and January. The chart below shows the relationship between the choice beef cutout (wholesale price) lagged by two months vs. average retail beef price.

While over time the relationship is very tight, there are sometimes other factors at play that affect retail beef prices. The higher inflation rate in November was not due to holiday items. Rather, the biggest increase was for beef round roasts, up 8.4 percent year-on-year. Ground beef prices in November were up 1.8 percent while ground chuck prices were up 6.6 percent.

Given the sharp increase in lean beef values recently and the seasonal tendency for retailers to feature less expensive beef cuts after the holidays, we would expect to see even bigger price gains for items such as round and chuck roasts and ground beef at the start of the year.


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