The official start of the summer grilling season launched with a thud. Beef demand remains good, but the expected bump from Memorial Day weekend was doused by heavy rains and beef’s high retail price in comparison to pork and poultry.
Feedyards and packers were in a standoff most of the week with bids $2 to $3 lower than last week. Prices were quoted $1 lower at $159 to $160 per cwt. in what was called a light test. Cattle sold on a dressed basis at $252 to $253 per cwt.
Boxed beef prices traded steady until mid-week, but tumbled lower Thursday and Friday as retailers focus on pushing the cheaper pork and poultry. Choice beef cutout values closed Friday at $254.99, down $4.26 from the prior day. Select beef cutout was quoted at $243.83, down $2.91 from Thursday. The Choice/Select spread was $11.16.
April’s retail Choice beef price averaged a record $6.40 per pound, about 9% higher than the year-ago average. That, and the fact April’s retail pork price was down 4.6% and poultry was down 3.6% from a year ago provides ample incentive for retailers to feature proteins other than beef.
Stocker and feeder cattle auctions reported a light holiday-week run, yet yearlings and calves were called steady to $5 higher. The early-week auction barns were empty, including the Oklahoma National Stockyard and Joplin Regional Stockyards, but mid-week sales showed demand remains strong for calves and yearlings. Heavy yearlings continue to command top-dollar bids. Unionville Livestock Auction in Unionville, MO, sold more than 240 head of 885-pound yearling steers for an average of $224.60 per cwt. In Russell, IA, 250 head of steer calves weighing 500-550 pounds averaged $301.46, while a pot load of 817-pound steers brought $234.25 per cwt.
Slaughter cows and bulls sold unevenly steady. USDA’s cutter cow carcass cut-out value Friday was $232.13, down 18 cents from last week.