Retail prices for beef, pork and chicken were up in February, but remain below 2014 and 2015 peaks, said the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the USDA’s Economic Research Service, and chicken gained on its pricing advantage.
Average prices for all fresh beef at retail in February averaged $5.51 a pound; all fresh pork prices averaged $3.64, and all fresh fryer chicken averaged $1.87 a pound.
Those prices compared with January’s levels of $5.47 a pound for beef, $3.57 for pork and $1.86 for chicken.
CHICKEN MAINTAINS PRICE ADVANTAGE
As pork and beef prices rose at retail over the last seven years, chicken prices have gained relatively little, the data show. Since December 2009, chicken prices have risen $0.12 a pound, or 6.86%, to $1.87 from $1.75.
In contrast, pork prices have gained $0.82, or 29.1%%, to $3.64 a pound in February this year from $2.82 in December 2009, the AMS data show.
Retail beef prices were up $1.63 a pound, or a whopping 42.0%, to $5.51 in February from $3.88 in December 2009.
As a result, chicken’s relative price advantage now is much greater than when the latest long-term price rise began in January of 2010. As of February, pork was $1.77 a pound, or 94.7%, higher than retail prices for chicken.
Beef in February was $3.64 a pound, or 194.7%, higher than retail chicken costs for consumers.
RED MEAT CONSUMPTION HIT
Beef consumption has taken a hit over the last several years as higher prices rationed available supplies. Meanwhile, pork, and especially chicken, consumption increased as prices shifted consumer demand.
The USDA’s World Agricultural Outlook Board, in its latest World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report estimated total beef disappearance for this year at 26.481 billion pounds, compared with 26.900 billion in 2009, a 419-million-pound, or 1.56%, decline.
Total pork disappearance this year was pegged at 21.368 billion pounds, up 1.621 billion, or 8.21%, from 19.747 billion in 2009.
Broiler disappearance this year was estimated by the WASDE report at 34.329 billion pounds, up 5.686 billion, or 19.9%, from 28.643 billion in 2009.
Per-capita beef consumption was expected to rise from last year, though, as wholesale and retail prices subside on an annual basis with increased production.
Retail beef prices hit their monthly peak in July of 2015 with a reading of $6.15 a pound.
That same month, pork was listed at $3.77 a pound and chicken at $1.96, 63.1% and 213.8% advantages, respectively, over beef, the data show.
The 2011-2015 average beef price rises through the year, but this average includes some years where cattle and beef production were near their multi-year lows. Last year, retail prices for fresh beef held about steady for the first half but declined in the second half as supplies increased.
CASH CATTLE QUIET
Cash cattle markets were quiet but last week traded in the Plains at $125 to $131.50 per cwt, mostly $127 to $130, up $3 to $5 from the previous week. Dressed-basis trading was mostly at $210, up $8 to $10.
Average fed cattle exchange auction prices Wednesday were $4.63 per cwt higher at $128.31, versus $123.68 a week earlier.
The USDA’s choice cutout Monday was up $0.33 per cwt at $223.76, while select was down $0.51 at $213.97. The choice/select spread widened to $9.79 from $8.95 with 68 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.
The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Friday was $129.70 per cwt, up $0.43. This compares with Monday’s Mar settlement of $131.47, down $0.15.