Retail Beef Prices Close To Last Year; Choice Rules

Average monthly retail beef prices have dipped back to being close to last year although above the 2013-2017 average, even though consumers are paying more for choice beef, according to statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the USDA’s Economic Research Service.

The data was compiled by the Livestock Marketing Information Center in Denver.  Other ERS and BLS data showed retail pork and chicken prices were running above last year and the average.

Data on retail meat prices can be important as it gives an idea of consumer demand, especially when supplies are adequate or more than adequate.




The data show that retail prices for all fresh beef was above last year and the average through May, all indications are that consumer acceptance of select or ungraded beef slipped in June and July.

The average monthly 2019 retail price for choice beef has never dipped below last year, and the trend is running in a similar pattern to the five-year average.  Individual years tend to bounce around more than the average, making the multi-year average a better barometer of what is really happening.

The closest this year’s monthly choice beef price got to last year and the average was in April when it was listed at $6.10 a pound.  This was $0.04 a pound, or 0.66%, above last year’s April price of $6.06.  It also was $0.19 a pound, or 3.21%, above the 2013-2017 average of $5.91.

For comparison, July’s average retail price of $6.15 a pound for choice beef was $0.13, or 2.16%, above last July’s $6.02 and $0.18, or 3.02%, above the 2013-2017 average of $5.97.

However, the average retail all-beef price dropped in June to $5.72 a pound, $0.07, or 1.21%, below June 2018’s $5.79, although it remained above the previous five-year average of $5.64 by $0.08, or 1.42%.  This clearly shows a decline in the retail price of other grades of beef to keep it moving.




Seasonally, monthly average retail pork prices have a relatively smooth rise to a September peak.  On a graph, it almost looks like a bell curve.

Last year’s price moves could influence the average a bit as monthly average retail values showed more volatility than the average curve might imply and peaked in August at a level well below the 2013-2017 average.

This year, average monthly retail pork prices had a minor peak in March, which is common, then dipped in April, also common, before rising sharply in May, not so common.  Prices rose less steeply in June and even less steeply in July to $3.93 a pound.

It appears that average retail pork prices are peaking about a month earlier than normal, although they could climb for a couple more months and show a September top that is above the 2013-2017 average.




Cash cattle traded last week at $106 to $107 per cwt on a live basis, down $7 to $9 from the previous week, and at $170 dressed, down $11 to $13.

The USDA choice cutout Tuesday was up $2.57 per cwt at $241.70, while select was down $0.25 at $214.27.  The choice/select spread widened to $27.43 from $24.61 with 68 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.

No cattle were tendered for delivery against the Aug contract Tuesday.

The CME Feeder Cattle index for the seven days ended Monday was $137.24 per cwt, up $0.91 from the previous day.  This compares with Tuesday’s Aug contract settlement of $136.30, up $0.62.