Beef Prices Nearing Seasonal Top

Seasonally, beef prices are about to weaken as rib markets turn south after holiday demand is met.

Overall prices are unlikely to tumble hard, however, as demand for more mundane cuts, like roasts, expands to fill some of the gap.

Weekly wholesale prices for boneless, light beef ribeyes last week shot to their highest point this year at $853.00 per cwt from $803.56 the previous week, a gain of $49.44, or 6.15%.

The five-year average price of ribeyes shows the seasonal peak coming next week, although last year, the top came a week later.  However, last year’s slide into the year end was particularly precipitous.

Adding 6.15% to last week’s price would project a top in the neighborhood of $908.45 per cwt for ribeyes although they may not get that high with retail beef prices already at or near record highs.




The USDA’s Economic Research Service published data showing its retail beef composite for October was up $0.02 per pound from September to a record $5.62 a pound.

The survey does not track ribeyes directly but instead looks at non-seasonal items.  Chuck and round roasts were down slightly from September, as was sirloin steak.  All steaks were up $0.01 a pound from September to $7.40.

The retail price for ground beef was up six cents to a record $4.15, the ERS said.




Wholesale prices for chuck and round primal cuts are leveling and could trend lower into year end.

USDA data show wholesale chucks last week at $321.31 per cwt, a slide of only $0.54 from the previous week’s record-high $321.85.  The five-year average shows a slight tendency for a post-Christmas uptick, but last year, the price bounced for one week in mid-December and resumed its downward slide.

Wholesale price trends for bottom rounds show a seasonal inclination toward lower prices until the Christmas holiday when they bounce into the new year.  Last year, prices for these items waffled downward into the Christmas bounce, and since this year’s prices have shown much wider price swings as they held above last year and the average, it would be a safe bet to say bottom round prices will remain volatile right up to Christmas.




A chart of wholesale 90%-lean trimmings prices shows a fairly flat market since the third week of July when prices made a top of $292.36 per cwt.  Prices have since risen above that figure, reaching this year’s high of $300.44 the last week of September.

Last week’s quote was $295.32 per cwt.

The leveling of prices since July has been counter-seasonal to the normal decline through the dog days of summer and the fall cow-culling period, and a wide gap now exists between current prices and the average.

Last week’s price for 90%-lean trimmings, at $295.32 per cwt, was $136.33, or 85.75%, above the average of $158.99.