Cattle Outlook: Retail choice beef prices set new record

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Beef Retail choice beef prices set a new record in March at $5.222 per pound, up 7.8 cents from February and up 24.7 cents from March 2012. The average price for all fresh beef was $4.918 per pound, also a new record. Record beef prices create concern that consumers will shift to lower cost meats. In March, the average grocery store price of ground beef was $3.84 per pound. That was 61 cents higher than a pound of boneless chicken breasts and only 12 cents lower than the cost of a pound of boneless pork chops.

The 5 area average price for slaughter steers in March was $126.50/cwt. That was up $1.40 from February and it was the second highest month ever, behind $126.80 in March 2012.

USDA's Foreign Ag Service released their latest forecast of world meat production this week. They are predicting 2013 global beef production will be up 0.5% from 2012. The U.S. is the world's largest beef producer. Our production is expected to be down 4.0%. Of the next six countries, beef production is forecast to be up 2.1% in Brazil, down 0.4% in the European Union, up 0.9% in China, up 9.8% in India, up 6.9% in Argentina and up 2.7% in Australia.

On Friday morning, the choice boxed beef carcass cutout value was $190.28/cwt, up 41 cents from the previous Friday and up $2.18 from a year ago. This morning the select carcass cutout was at $185.32/cwt, up $1.20 for the week.

Fed cattle prices were uneven this week on very light volume. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $125.27/cwt, down $1.96 from last week, but up $2.59/cwt from the same week last year. Steer prices on a dressed basis averaged $200.00/cwt this week, up 62 cents from a week ago and up $1.48 from a year ago.

This week's cattle slaughter totaled 615,000 head, up 1.5% from last week and up 2.7% from a year ago. The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on April 6 was 847 pounds, down 4 pounds from the week before, but up 4 pounds from a year ago. This was the 65th consecutive week with steer weight above the year-earlier level.

Oklahoma City feeder cattle prices were $2 to $6 lower this week with prices for medium and large frame #1 steers: 400-450# $164-$181, 450-500# $162-$173, 500-550# $149-$176, 550-600# $152.75-$173.50, 600-650# $141-$162.50, 650-700# $125-$147.50, 700-750# $131-$140, 750-800# $120-$139.25, 800-900# $120-$130.50, and 900-1000# $112-$121/cwt.

The April live cattle futures contract closed at $126.35/cwt today, up 50 cents from last week's close. June fed cattle contracts gained 55 cents from last Friday to settle at $121.30/cwt. The August fed cattle contract closed at $121.62/cwt, up 22 cents from the week before. April feeder cattle futures ended the week at $134.02/cwt, $3.90 lower than last week's close. May feeder cattle settled at $139.20/cwt.

Source: Ron Plain and Scott Brown

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