The chart of the week is the weekly number of cattle slaughtered that grade prime. As well documented for the past year, the percentage of cattle grading choice has been trending well above prior year averages. This is due to a couple of factors including the trend of cattle staying on pasture longer and entering feedlots with greater maturity. At times during the past year, the percentage of cattle grading prime has also trended well above prior year averages. Right now is one of those times. The number of cattle that graded prime during the third week of September was the largest for any week in thirty-four months. During the first nine months of this year, both choice (1.8%) and prime (2.4%) beef production are estimated to be modestly larger than last year despite nearly a 4% decline in overall cattle slaughter. The trend of abnormally high percentages of cattle grading choice and prime may continue, at least for the near term, and could be bearish for choice and prime beef prices.
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