Cattle Outlook: 3 Months of Record High Retail Beef Prices

Cattle Outlook: 3 Months of Record High Retail Beef Prices

Retail beef prices were record high for the third consecutive month during February. 
By: Ron Plain and Scott Brown, University of Missouri

The price of fresh beef in grocery stores averaged $6.028 per pound. That was 4.1 cents higher than the month before and 75.7 cents higher than in February 2014. Choice beef at retail averaged $6.27 per pound.

Ground beef prices also set a new retail price record at $4.238 per pound in February.

The 5 area price of slaughter steers averaged $159.90/cwt during February, down $4.50 from the month before. Record retail beef prices and declining fed cattle prices left the wholesale-retail margin at a record $2.581 per pound in February.

There were 492 million pounds of beef in cold storage at the end of February. That is 20% more than a year ago and the most since April 30, 2013. A strong dollar and labor problems at west coast docks may have forced more beef into storage.

This morning the choice boxed beef cutout value was $250.43/cwt, up $6.05 from the previous Friday and up $14.00 from a year ago. The select carcass cutout was $246.62/cwt this morning, up $2.06 from last week and up $16.14 from a year ago.

Fed cattle prices were higher this week on light sales volume. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $163.98/cwt, up $2.48 from last week's average, up $11.72 from a year ago, and the highest for any week since early January. The 5 area average dressed price for steers was $260.00/cwt, up $4.72 for the week and up $16.52 compared to a year ago.

Cattle slaughter this week totaled 531,000 head, up 2.5% from the week before, but down 9.7% from the same week last year. Year-to-date cattle slaughter is down 7.1% and year-to-date beef production is down 5.0% compared to the same period last year.

The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on March 14 was 871 pounds, down 5 pounds from the week before, but up 15 pounds compared to the same week last year. Steer weights have been above year-ago each week since June 14, 2014.

Feeder cattle prices at Oklahoma City were mostly $4 to $8 higher this week. Prices for medium and large frame #1 steers by weight group were: 400-450# $301-$342, 450-500# $291-$324.50, 500-550# $286-$308, 550-600# $245-$289, 600-650# $243-$271, 650-700# $227.50-$248, 700-750# $210-$229.50, 750-800# $207-$221, 800-900# $194-$211.50, and 900-1000#, $179-$203.50/cwt.

The April live cattle futures contract settled at $162.70/cwt today, up $4.35 for the week. June fed cattle settled at $152.95/cwt, up $2.48 from the previous Friday. August fed cattle gained $1.90 this week to settle at $150.00/cwt.

The April feeder cattle contract ended the week at $219.40/cwt, up $3.20 for the week. May feeders settled at $218.02/cwt which is $2.62 higher than the Friday before. The August contract ended the week at $219.17/cwt.

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