Farm Progress

Wall of meat in retail cases is dragging prices down, but beef resisting better than competitors.

Alan Newport, Editor, Beef Producer

April 16, 2018

2 Min Read
A wall of retail meat products is dragging down retail pricing as has been expected.Jupiterimages-Stockbyte-Thinkstock

Competition is heating up in the meat case and prices appear to be melting down slowly, with beef leading the resistance.

Last week USDA ERS released retail data on the meat spreads, which calculates the different spreads from retail to wholesale to farm level. The agency uses BLS data on retail meat cuts to determine retail prices.

Daily Livestock Report from Steiner Consulting Group

In its March 2018 numbers, ERS lists the all fresh beef retail value at $5.60 per pound, which is only 5 cents lower than last year’s price, says Daily Livestock Report from Steiner Consulting Group. Retail beef prices have been below $6 per pound since late 2015, but with more beef on the market and higher production numbers forecast in pork and chicken, the spread between competitive meats is widening, says Daily Livestock Report from Steiner Consulting Group. However, with beef, chicken, pork and turkey below $6 per pound, consumers do not seem to be struggling with the price point.

Derrell Peel, livestock marketing economist at Oklahoma State University, says retail beef prices have actually held up well, relative to pork and poultry prices.

He notes March retail pork price was $1.502 per pound, down 0.7% from one year ago.  Composite broiler retail price in March was $1.867 per pound, down 0.6% from last year.

Peel adds that production of beef, pork and broilers are all expected to be record large in 2018. This should create record-large total meat supplies of nearly 103 billion pounds, up 3.3% year over year. This includes other chicken, turkey, lamb and mutton and veal production. 

Peel says Choice retail beef prices in March were $5.871 per pound, down 0.6% from one year ago. The All Fresh beef retail price for March was $5.598 per pound, up 0.9% from one year ago. Choice boxed beef cutout declined from February but remains 1.6% higher year over year for the latest weekly data. He also noted higher primal values for the rib, chuck, brisket, short plate and flank have been partially offset by lower loin and round values.

Steiner Group noted ground chuck and ground beef increased from last year as well, up 4% and 2%.

Pork products tracked lower for the most part in March across BLS's nine reported categories. Pork chops decreased 24 cents per pound, from $3.44 per pound reported last year. Sliced bacon prices also decreased. Chicken legs and breasts were both lower. Boneless chicken breast lost 15 cents compared to last year and bone in legs were 9 cents lower.

Chicken is tracked in seven categories, while turkey has a single frozen category. Frozen turkey declined 7 cents from 2017.

Eggs, although not part of the meat case, are much more expensive this year. Eggs were 42 cents per dozen higher in 2018 than last year, and nearly gained 10 cents per dozen since February.

About the Author(s)

Alan Newport

Editor, Beef Producer

Alan Newport is editor of Beef Producer, a national magazine with editorial content specifically targeted at beef production for Farm Progress’s 17 state and regional farm publications. Beef Producer appears as an insert in these magazines for readers with 50 head or more of beef cattle. Newport lives in north-central Oklahoma and travels the U.S. to meet producers and to chase down the latest and best information about the beef industry.

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