Beef Markets Following Seasonal Trends – Sort Of

Beef markets are following seasonal trends, for the most part, but actual prices differ significantly from last year and the 2010-2014 average.  Taken as a whole, they generally point to a normal realignment of prices for the various primal cuts after the New Year’s holiday.




Of all the various primal cuts of beef that get the most attention at this time of year, the ribeye takes the prize.  The rib is where rib steaks, filets and rib roasts come from.

All of these items, especially the rib roasts, are popular with many families at the holiday season.  Wholesale, prices go up in the fall, only to plummet in mid- to late December when retailer and restaurant demand fades.

However, ribeye prices have fluctuated dramatically the last couple of years, and it takes the five-year average line to see the general trend.

It seems very possible that price trends for the ribeye are changing.  The average 2010-2014 price line shows a pretty even trend of strengthening prices up to the Independence Day holiday, followed by a midsummer dip and then a second, stronger rally to the annual high in December.

However, ribeye prices the last two years have shown a strong tendency to vacillate throughout the year with less strength tied to the major holidays.  It’s unclear what is causing this, if it really is a new trend, or whether it’s just the result of an economy that is breaking out of a long recession.




A cut of beef that appears to be changing over time but really isn’t is the 50% boneless beef.  This product is composed mostly of trimmings and is mixed with leaner cow or imported beef to attain the various degrees of leanness in hamburger.

It would be logical to assume that these products also would see greater demand in the spring and summer for grilling and in late fall as holiday shopping increases fast-food restaurant traffic.  Anecdotal evidence shows this is so, but increasing slaughter of fat steers and heifers as the US herd regrows yields more fatty trimmings and a trend toward lower prices.

Contrast the wild fluctuations of the 50% boneless beef with the 90% beef, and it becomes clearer that prices for the leaner product have stabilized.  After falling off in the last quarter of last year, prices this year have held very close to the 2010-2014 average as supply and demand balanced.




Live-basis cash cattle trading Monday was quiet after trading last week up $4 per cwt from the previous week at $109 to $113, mostly $112.  Dressed-basis prices last week were steady to up $2 at $170.

Cattle sold in the online Superior Auction at an average of $109.14 per cwt live, up from $106.79.

The USDA’s choice cutout Monday was $0.36 per cwt higher at $188.00, while select was up $1.45 at $172.75.  The choice/select spread narrowed to $15.25 from $16.34 with 48 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.

The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Friday was $129.35 per cwt, up $1.53.  This compares with Monday’s Jan settlement at $126.80, down $0.42.