CattleFax analysts warned participates at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association industry convention in Nashville, Tennessee, that due to struggles with excess capacity because of tight feeder cattle supplies, there is risk of additional packing plant closures over the next two years.
But at the same time, CattleFax Senior Analyst Kevin Good told the crowd the combination of improved moisture conditions resulting in lower input costs and record high calf values should lead to beef cow herd expansion beginning in 2014.
Meanwhile, CattleFax says per-capita beef supplies will decline 4.5% from year-ago, but pork and poultry supplies are expected to increase, leaving total meat supplies near even. CattleFax projects the Retail Beef Demand Index will improve by one percent due to continued modest economic growth.
"As we think about our consumers today, not only domestically but globally, they're a lot more diverse than they have been in past," Good said. "We've got different customers with different preferences and different pockets books."
According to Good, calf prices will average $193, up 13% from last year's average of $168. "After years of tightening supplies, the cow-calf sector will again remain in the driver's seat during 2014," he said.