Healthy Eating Clashing With Desire, Paychecks

“Healthy” eating seems to be clashing with a continued taste for beef and budgets as paychecks refuse to grow and the unemployed become the under-employed.

It looks like shoppers want a leaner beef product that has the versatility of ground beef but with less fat.

Wholesale prices for beef cuts can be used to show that prices for 90% lean trimmings are rising and holding well above last year and the previous five-year average while prices for many other beef cuts and most pork products are struggling.

The beef trimmings go into hamburger with the 90% lean product needed to make the leanest ground beef.  It also is needed to blend with 50% lean trimmings to make the 70% or 80% product seen in grocery stores.

It can be argued that all beef products are just following seasonal trends, but 90% lean trim, or 90’s as they are known in the industry, are almost double the average and nearly $100 per cwt above last year.

A graph from the Livestock Marketing Information Center shows that 90’s were up to a record high of $303.51 per cwt during the last week of January, compared with $221.48 a year earlier and the average of $180.18.  The graph also shows the trend is mirroring the average more closely than last year.

A graph of prices for 50% lean beef trimmings shows the market for this product remains quite volatile, as it tracks, but exaggerates, seasonal trends.  It also shows this week’s prices for this product could drop below last year this week.




Most wholesale pork prices, however, are struggling, which is expected to bring more competition to beef as pork production increases with a healthier, heavier animal.  PEDv is being conquered slowly, and hogs are being grown to larger slaughter weights.

The only major pork cut that continues to trend higher is the sparerib.  But even there, average prices last week were off slightly from the prior week at $176.41 per cwt, versus $176.68.

Sparerib prices also are above last year and the average, unlike other major pork cuts.  Hams, for instance, are below last year and are angled downward, resting last week just above the average.




Cash cattle trading this week has been steady but with light volume at $160 per cwt on a live basis.

Beef markets were lower Thursday with the USDA’s choice cutout down $1.57 per cwt at $241.18 and select off $0.19 at $235.39.

The CME Feeder Cattle Index was $211.46 per cwt, down $0.92.