Retail Meat Sales, Prices Up

Prompted by media coverage of meat shortages, it seems many consumers are buying extra when they can, generating more meat sales at higher prices for the retail grocer, according to a report by Anne-Marie Roerink, president of 210 Analytics LLC.

For the week ended May 3, meat department income was up 51.3% from the same week a year earlier while volume rose 37.2%, according to data from IRI, MULO, which Roerink used for her analysis.

IRI is a retail market performance measurement company, and MULO means it used multiple outlets for the data used to make the comparisons.




Since the beginning of March, the gap between year-over-year volumes sold and the year-over-year price received for meat products has been growing.  The widening gap between sales volumes and dollars received signals pressure on pricing linked to supply tightness, Roerink said.

“The latest four weeks ending May 3 versus the comparable period in 2019 showed double digit volume/dollar gaps for beef, turkey, exotic meats and many processed meats, with the widest gap for turkey at 12.3 percentage points,” she said.  “Chicken had the smallest gap of the bigger proteins, at 5.4 percentage points.  Bacon, buoyed by ample supply given lacking foodservice demand in recent weeks, is the only area where dollars and pounds increased at the same rate.”

But meat production has slowed, and over the past two weeks, many stores put limits on how much customers could purchase.  But supply likely will continue to affect the dollar and volume performance for weeks to come, Roerink said.

While nearly all US packing plants were expected to be operating next week, but labor shortages continue to limit output to 70% to 80% of normal, she said.  Similar challenges have forced European and Brazilian plants to close in the past week.

“US protein inventories are depleted, with retail and foodservice buyers drawing on the same limited supply,” Roerink said.




The overall 51.3% meat department gain was fueled by double-digit gains for all proteins, she said.  Beef and pork saw the highest percentage dollar gains, which also were their highest since late March.

Ground meats frequently were among those items with purchase limitations, Roerink said.  These products are popular because of their versatility and ease of preparation.

Over the week ended May 3, these four had gains over the same week in 2019: ground beef increased 51.0%; ground turkey, 53.9%; ground chicken 53.9%, and ground pork rose 39.3%, she said.

Total meat department sales exceeded $1.6 billion for the same week, with continued gains for beef, pork and chicken, which have seen double-digit increases ever since the week of March 15, Roerink said.  Beef and chicken, the two largest proteins, saw the largest increases in terms of dollars during the week of May 3, versus the comparable week in 2019.

In absolute dollars, beef sold an additional $268 million, with ground beef generating 36%, she said.




Cattle traded last week at $95 to $115 per cwt on a live basis, up $1 to $10 from the previous week’s range.  Dressed-basis trading was seen at $145 to $180 per cwt, down $5 to up $30.

The USDA choice cutout Monday was up $7.70 per cwt at $468.58, while select was up $3.98 at $452.97.  The choice/select spread widened to $15.61 from $11.89 with 91 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.

The CME Feeder Cattle index for the seven days ended Friday was $122.60 per cwt, up $1.46.  This compares with Monday’s May contract settlement of $123.65, down $4.25.