Monthly Retail Beef Prices Keep Rising

Despite recent gyrations in the weekly wholesale beef prices, monthly retail beef price charts continued to rise through August, widening the gap between this year, last year and the previous five-year average.

Compiling data from the USDA and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Livestock Marketing Information Center shows the retail price of choice beef at $6.24 a pound, up $0.89, or 16.61%, from August last year and up $1.66, or 36.36%, above the average.  It also was up $0.29, or 4.86%, from July’s $5.95.

The monthly retail price of all fresh beef showed similar gains, rising $0.26, or 4.68%, to $5.81 a pound in August from $5.55 in July.  August’s value was up $0.84, or 16.9%, from $4.97 last year and was up $1.59, or 37.7%, from the $4.22 average.

Sources attribute beef’s surging price gains this year to tight supplies of slaughter cattle and a renewed interest among consumers for beef.  There also appears to be a higher level of interest in choice product as various choice-beef branded programs and restaurants convince consumers that choice beef tastes better.

Some sources also say choice beef may be seeing the benefits of a consuming public that lacks the money to enjoy other pursuits like vacations.  Sort of an “I can’t have that, but I can enjoy this” mentality.




But lest beef producers gloat about the success of beef at retail, government data also show gains in competing meats.  Whole, fresh chicken showed an especially sharp bump in August as retailers pushed the lower-cost meat at the expense of red meat advertising, although the composite broiler price showed only modest gains from July and remains below a year ago where it has been since May.

The composite retail broiler price in August was $1.97 a pound, $0.01, or 0.51%, above July’s $1.96, continuing the steady rise seen since the seasonal April upturn, but rising counter-seasonally since June when it should have peaked for the summer.

The composite retail broiler price was $0.03, or 1.5%, below last year’s August composite of $2.00.  However, it was $0.18, or 10.1%, above the $1.79 five-year average.

The retail price of pork rose $0.07 a pound, or 1.69%, in August to $4.20 from $4.13 in July, but there are sharp differences between August this year and previous years.  This year, pork was up $0.44, or 11.7%, from $3.76 last year and up $0.96, or 29.6%, from the previous five-year average of $3.24.




Wholesale beef prices have declined for the last four business days as post-holiday demand fades.  The USDA reported its choice cutout value Wednesday at $245.91 per cwt, down $1.73 from Tuesday, and down $5.55 from $251.46 a week ago.

The select cutout Wednesday was $232.32, down $0.64 from Tuesday and off $5.86 from $238.18 a week earlier.

Business was good Wednesday, however, with 170 loads of fabricated product and 66 loads of trimmings and ground beef sold into the spot market.

The choice/select spread continues to widen seasonally and was reported at $13.60 Wednesday.

Individual wholesale beef prices are mixed, with boneless ribeyes trending higher, bottom round prices bouncing off recent lows and chuck prices turning lower along with boneless loin strips.

That makes it hard to estimate future price movement.