Cattle Outlook: Christmas Beef Averaged A Dollar More This Time

US - December shoppers had to pay almost a dollar per pound more for beef this Christmas than last.
calendar icon 19 January 2015
clock icon 3 minute read
Ron Plain
Ron Plain

Retail fresh beef prices averaged a record $6.00 per pound in December, write University of Missouri Professors Ron Plain and Scott Brown.

Prices were 8.8 cents higher than in November, 6.5 cents higher than the previous record which was set in October and 96.3 cents higher than in December 2013.

Choice beef averaged $6.31 per pound in grocery stores during December. That was the tenth record month in 2014.

The 5 area average slaughter steer price was $163.10/cwt in December. That was down $7.90 from the month before, but up $30.90 from a year ago.

Year-over-year domestic meat demand was up 7.3 per cent in November. This was the 10th consecutive positive month for meat demand. Domestic beef demand was up 11.2 per cent in November and is up an average of 4.2 per cent over the last 12 months. Export demand for beef was up 6 per cent in November and has been above the year-ago level each month since April 2013.

USDA's January WASDE publication increased their forecast of 2015 beef production by 0.7 per cent and reduced their 2015 fed cattle price estimate by $1/cwt. They are now predicting 1.7 per cent lower beef production this year than in 2014 with slaughter steer prices averaging in the $160s compared to an average of $154.56/cwt in 2014.

Boxed beef prices rose for the fourth week in a row and are at the highest level since early August. This morning the boxed beef cutout value for choice carcasses was $261.13/cwt, up $4.74 from the previous Friday and up $29.38 from a year ago. The select carcass cutout was $252.20/cwt this morning, up $4.62 from last week and up $23.25 from a year ago.

Fed cattle prices were lower this week on moderate sales volume. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $163.14/cwt, down $6.74 from last week's average, but up $20.69 from a year ago. The 5 area average dressed price for steers was $263.50/cwt, down $7.12 for the week, but up $36.23 from this week last year.

Cattle slaughter this week totalled 546,000 head, up 1.5 per cent from the week before, but down 9.2 per cent from the comparable week last year. The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on January 3 was 897 pounds, unchanged from the week before and up 21 pounds compared to the same week last year.

Feeder cattle prices at Oklahoma City were $5 to $15 lower than the week before. Prices for medium and large frame #1 steers by weight group were: 400-450# $303-$330, 450-500# $294-$317, 500-550# $285.50-$301, 550-600# $270.50-$288, 600-650# $239-$269, 650-700# $231-$246, 700-750# $224.50-$240, 750-800# $216.50-$235, 800-900# $207-$221, 900-1000#, $197-$208/cwt.

The February live cattle futures contract today settled at $154.45, down $6.15 for the week. April fed cattle settled at $152.95/cwt, down $6.47 from the previous Friday. The January feeder cattle contract ended the week at $214.10/cwt, down $8.32 for the week.

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