Beef’s economic indicators provided mixed signals in December. Cattle prices were near all-time highs, but both feedyards and packers posted significant losses for the month. Packer margins have been in the red for three months. Cattle on feed numbers increased last month, and market-ready cattle numbers will gradually increase throughout the winter. Cattle supplies will tighten during 2012, and calf prices will show strength with strong demand. Production costs will remain relatively high, though grain prices declined significantly during December. Pork and broiler production remains large, and retail beef prices are likely to see pressure in the coming weeks in order to remain competitive. The Sterling Beef Profit Quotient suggests a struggling industry through mid-winter.