Grilling Season Is Here

If there is any doubt about why beef prices have waffled in the past few weeks, one look at the breakdown in the prices for specific beef cuts will show the reason:  grilling season has arrived.

Wholesale boxed beef cutout data from the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service show weekly averages gained less last week than in the two previous weeks, leading many to think the bloom was off the rose for beef demand.

Data also made many believe the wholesale beef market was due for a downturn, and maybe it is.  But it won’t be because beef demand has gone away; it just is in the middle of a seasonal shift from heavy demand for end cuts to more demand for middle meats and ground beef.




End cut prices, the chuck and the round, which together make up 49% of the beef carcass by weight, are beginning to soften.  And since these cuts represent so much of the carcass by weight, slower demand for them can be expected to have a dampening effect on the total cutout value.

Consumers are getting away from the roasts and moving toward more items that can be prepared on the grill.  This includes steaks and hamburgers.




By the same token, wholesale beef ribeye prices, from which many popular steaks are cut, are up sharply from last year and the five-year average and continue to climb.  Last week’s average USDA-AMS price was $959.17 per cwt, up $56.44, or 6.25%, from $902.73 the previous week.

Last week’s average wholesale price also was up $161.08, or 20.2%, from last year’s $798.09 and was up $286.43, or 42.6%, from the five-year average of $672.74.

Wholesale prices for 50% lean beef, which is blended with lean beef for hamburger, also are up sharply.  USDA-AMS data show last week’s average price of $200.80 per cwt was up $16.51, or 8.96%, from $184.29 a week earlier.  It also was up $149.25, or 289.5%, from $51.55 last year and up $103.40, or 106.2%, from the 2011-2015 average of $97.40.




Just as an added note to show the effect of grilling season demand, pork spareribs, which had been moving unevenly sideways, contrary to a seasonal uptrend, moved to the year’s high last week at $153.90 per cwt, a gain of $10.66, or 7.44%, from $143.24.

However, spareribs remain well below last year and the five-year average near $179.  These products may seem like bargains to meat buyers and generate some extra business.