Wholesale and retail Choice beef prices have dropped off somewhat over the past few months, but remain at historically high levels, according to the latest report on meat price spreads from USDA’s Economic Research Service. The report lists the average retail price of Choice beef for April at $4.98 per pound, down from $5.05 in March. The high-water mark for retail beef prices was in January, with retail prices for Choice beef averaging $5.09.

The April average price for all fresh beef, at $4.67 per pound, was down fractionally from the previous month average, but above January’s price of $4.63.

For the first quarter of 2012, retail Choice beef averaged $5.06per pound, and all fresh beef averaged $4.64, both topping the averages from the fourth quarter of 2011 of $4.98 and $4.51 respectively.

For 2011, the annual average retail Choice price was $4.83 per pound, while the annual average retail price for all fresh beef was $4.44. Both figures were well above the averages from 2010 of $4.39 and $4.02 respectively.

Fresh ground beef averaged $3.00 per pound at retail during April, compared with $3.02 per pound in March and $2.95per pound in February. Choice boneless round roasts gained value during April, averaging $4.74 per pound compared with $4.69 in March and $4.70 in February.

Choice sirloin steaks were steady, averaging $6.52 per pound during April compared with $6.53 per pound in March. Those prices are up from earlier in the year, with the same steaks averaging $6.40 during January and February.

The five-market fed-steer price for 2011 averaged $114.51 per hundredweight, up from $96.15 in 2010. Based on the net farm value of retail beef cuts, the farmer’s share of retail value for 2011 was 49.9 percent, compared with 46.4 percent in 2010 and 42.5 percent for 2009. During April, the farmer’s share of retail value was 51 percent, down from 52.9 percent in March.

Retail pork values during April averaged $3.46 per pound, down somewhat from $3.49 per pound in March. The annual average pork price for 2011 was $3.43 per pound, up from $3.11 per pound in 2010 and $2.92 per pound in 2009.

The May report on meat price spreads is available online from USDA/ERS.