Frozen Red Meat Supplies Mixed

Total red meat supplies in cold storage as of Oct. 31 were down 3% from Sep. 30 but up 1% from a year earlier, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service’s monthly Cold Storage report Tuesday.

The monthly report said beef supplies in US freezers amounted to 532.326 million pounds, up 13.304 million, or 2.56%, from 519.022 million a month earlier and up 23.192 million, or 4.56% from 509.134 million last year.

Given this year’s increased beef production via increased slaughter, it would seem logical for beef cuts in cold storage to continue higher as well.  However, the latest USDA-NASS report shows a 2.861-million-pound, or 6.92%, decline in beef cuts from September to 38.471 million pounds, which is similar to last year’s 38.243 million.

The conclusion, then, is that there was plenty of action at the wholesale level to get rib roasts and steaks in the ads for the Thanksgiving Day holiday.  Grocers and restaurants laid in supplies, expecting good retail sales volume.

However, this left many cuts to sit in cold storage until seasonal patterns shifted and more end cuts and lower eating-quality items could be sold at retail, which explains why beef stocks tend to go up at this time of year.  Unfortunately for beef, the focus is on pork and turkeys.




Frozen pork supplies at 597.975 million pounds, were down 44.328 million, or 6.90%, from 642.303 million a month earlier and down 5.479, or 0.91%, from 603.454 million last year, the report said.

Bone-in, boneless and total ham supplies declined the most from a month ago, displaying a seasonal tendency to feature these products in weekly grocery advertisements or restaurant menus.

The seasonality to feature hams in Thanksgiving grocery ads is very strong.  Many stores will offer a free turkey along with the purchase of a specific brand of (usually) high-quality ham, either bone-in or boneless.  This increases the movement of both items across the checkout counter.

That sales arrangement actually works well for many families, especially large ones.  It is not uncommon to find hams and turkeys on the same table.

Total ham supplies were reported at 191.180 million pounds, down 57.792 million, or 23.2%, from 248.972 million a month earlier and down 5.28 million, or 2.69%, from 196.460 million a year earlier.




No cash cattle trading was reported Tuesday. This week’s action could take place today before the Thanksgiving Day holiday but often waits until Friday.

Cattle sold last week from $107.50 per cwt on a live basis to $110, mostly $108, up about $3, and at $168 to mostly $170 dressed, up $10 to $12.

Last Wednesday, cattle sold in the online Superior Auction at $105.50 to $108.25 in the south to $103.25 to $108.25 in the north.

The USDA’s choice cutout Tuesday was $0.46 per cwt lower at $185.22, while select was up $0.44 at $169.17.  The choice/select spread narrowed to $16.05 from $16.95 with 123 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.