Consumers will pay more for beef and poultry this summer

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 1,024 views 

Memorial Day or Fourth of July cookouts will be more costly this year as chicken and beef prices remain high. Derrell Peel, livestock marketing specialist with Oklahoma State University Extension, said beef production from the nation’s biggest packers continues to slow.

He said Tyson Foods, Cargill and other large operators continue to reduce production amid decreases in cattle slaughter and lower carcass weights. Peel said beef production averaged 6.4% lower over the past four weeks compared to a year ago and there is no sign of improvement.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports steer slaughter is down 5.3% year over year in the past month and steer carcass weights have averaged 903 pounds, which is 16 pounds lighter than a year ago. Beef cattle slaughter was down 13.6% over the past weeks compared to a year ago.

The “choice” boxed beef cutout values averaged $285.13 per hundredweight last month, up 11% from a year ago. The cutout values relate to the wholesale prices for the sum of the parts that are eventually sold into retail. The higher wholesale prices are led by a 21.4% jump in rib values, and 15.5% increase in loin cut values. Lower quality chuck cuts are 8.5% more costly than a year ago. Short plate cut prices are up 13.5% and flank cuts are 16.4% higher in the past month, the USDA reports.

Peel said the only cut that saw lower prices is brisket meat, down 8.5% compared to a year ago. He said there doesn’t seem to be any sign of relief in the higher beef prices for consumers as beef production is expected to drop more sharply for the remainder of the year.

“Current estimates for 2023 have beef production decreasing in a range from 4.5% to 6% lower year over year. The decrease will depend, in part, on whether continued drought causes additional herd liquidation and temporarily moderates declining beef production and resulting in a smaller decrease,” Peel said.

He said the ground beef market is responding to lower beef production. Decreasing cow slaughter is already pushing 90% lean trimmings prices higher and decreased fed slaughter is pushing 50% lean trimmings prices higher, he added. Peel said hamburger prices are poised to run higher in the coming weeks.

The latest USDA Cold Storage report showed beef in cold storage was down 5.9% year over year, likely mostly reflecting the seasonal drawdown in beef trimmings. Peel said a year ago, cold storage levels were high due to higher cattle slaughter throughout the year.

The National Retail Report from USDA as of Mar. 24 indicated beef prices at grocery retailers in Arkansas remained high. Rib-eye steak prices averaged $13.07 per pound, up from $11.59 per pound a month ago. Prices were on par with the year-ago period. T-Bone steak prices averaged $8.61 per pound up 20 cents from last month and rising from 7.58 per pound a year ago. New York strip prices have risen more than $2 per pound over the last year. Lean ground beef prices averaged $5.34 pound, down slightly from last month a year ago. Brisket prices are coming down from highs hit last year. The retail brisket price averaged $3.30 per pound, down from $5 a pound a year ago, according to the USDA report.

The USDA reported Mar. 24 retail chicken boneless breast prices averaged $2.99 per pound, up from $2.42 the prior week and $2.88 a year ago. Chicken processors continue to see production setbacks relating to labor constraints and higher feed costs.