Retail meat and poultry prices continue to climb. USDA’s estimates of monthly average retail prices for the four major species are shown in the chart at right. Note that there are two beef prices on the chart —one for Choice grade beef and the other for all-fresh beef which would include Select grade and store specification beef. Some highlights of this month’s price data are:

• Another new record for the all-fresh beef series. The October average of $4.772 per pounds is 2.7% higher than in September and 6.1% higher than one year ago.
• The average price of Choice grade beef moved back above $5.00 per pound and gained 2% versus last year and 1.8% versus last month. The Choice price of $5.031 per pound is the fourth highest on record.
• Lower pork prices — but not by much. October’s average price of $3.484 was 0.7% lower than the price in September but still 0.5% higher than one year ago.
• Rising chicken prices. October’s average price for composite broilers at retail was $1.870 per pound, 0.8% higher than last month and 3.5% higher than last year. In addition, the average price of whole broilers (not shown in the chart) set a new record at $1.530 per pounds, 16.6% higher than one year ago and 5.2% higher than just last month. The broiler industry reduced output in mid-2011 but are just now finally seeing some lasting impacts at the retail level in terms of price.
• Turkey prices were steady at $1.621 per pound in October. That price, though is 3.1% lower than last year and is the result of steady year-on-year gains in turkey output during 2012.

Domestic consumer-level demands for meat and poultry continued to be a mixed bag through September. As can be seen above, our indexes for beef and turkey demand for the 12 months ended in September both show healthy increases while the demand for pork and chicken are both down. It should be noted that both of the latter are improving steadily with the September numbers being less negative than indexes earlier this year.

Why are the indexes through only September when October price data are available? Because we need per capita consumption to compute the indexes and we can’t compute an actual number for that until October 31 cold storage stocks are published on Wednesday and October exports and imports are published in mid-December. We are still concerned about the impact of slow growing consumer incomes.