Consumers Focus On Flavorful Meats

Bureau of Labor Statistics data indicates that consumers are trending to focus their meat buying more and more on the most flavorful meat items, which bodes well for the cattle and beef industries.

University of Missouri Agricultural Economist Scott Brown made the statement in a review of the Bureau’s statistics on which meats consumers are paying more to obtain.  His analysis appeared in the latest “Missouri Ruralist.”

Strong demand for meat has been seen for much of this year, particularly for higher-quality beef, Brown said.  He examined the data to find patterns in consumer buying interest as aggregate wholesale and retail prices for beef, pork and chicken can be useful in gauging consumer interest in the future.




The overall choice retail beef price averaged $5.93 a pound through the first 10 months of 2017, he said, 35% above the 2010 annual average.  Other analysts have noticed a strengthening of demand for choice beef over select over the last two years as well, with beef packers paying premiums for cattle that yield carcasses that grade choice or select.

Pork retail prices averaged $3.79 a pound through October of this year, 22% higher than in 2010, Brown said.

The composite retail chicken price of $1.87 a pound this year was 7% above 2010, he said.

Price data from this year is consistent with what has been happening since about 2010.  One analyst said it’s as if consumers woke up to the taste qualities of choice beef.  What is not explained is their willingness to pay more for pork, which does not contain as much marbling as choice beef.

Brown said it was not surprising that beef retail prices have increased the most since 2010 – this year’s projected beef production is nearly similar to 2010 output, while pork production will be nearly 15% higher and chicken output up about 13% since 2010.




Looking at the specifics, Brown said beef price gains have been supported by several products, while those for pork and poultry have been focused on jumps in demand for just one or two components of the carcass.  Ground beef prices were more than 50% above average 2010 prices, but roasts, steaks and stew meat have also posted gains of 25% to 40%.

Pork retail items showed more variability, he said.  Bacon demand has skyrocketed, with this year’s prices 41% above 2010, but boneless ham prices were up just 14%, and prices for boneless pork chops were virtually unchanged.

Chicken prices for bone-in legs and boneless breasts were slightly lower than in 2010, and other data showed whole wing prices were 49% above 2010, and thigh prices were up 25% to 30%.




Scattered trade came Tuesday in Nebraska at $117.50 to $118 per cwt.

No trading took place on the Livestock Exchange video auction last Wednesday.  Cash trade was reported later in the week at $119 to $121 per cwt on a live basis, up $2 to $4 from the previous week and at $189 to mostly $190 dressed, steady with the previous week.

The USDA’s choice cutout Tuesday was up $0.89 per cwt at $209.08, while select was up $1.09 at $186.63.  The choice/select spread narrowed to $22.45 from $22.65 with 85 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.

The CME Feeder Cattle index for the seven days ended Monday was $156.30 per cwt, down $0.12.  This compares with Tuesday’s Jan settlement at $147.82 per cwt, down $2.12.