Historically small U.S. cattle inventory continues to support high beef prices in 2015, but at least in the short term, increasing imports of processing beef (especially from Australia) and heavy carcass weights have helped moderate some of the price pressures.
Fed cattle live and dressed weights have remained significantly heavier than last year due in part to improvements in pasture conditions and extra time on feed as a result of reduced steer and heifer slaughter.
One uncertainty is the extent to which feeding cattle to heavier weights will offset the decrease in slaughter numbers in 2015, and the ultimate effect this will have on total commercial beef production.
Despite heavier cattle, U.S. commercial beef production is currently expected to fall to a multi-decade low of 24 billion pounds in 2015.
U.S. beef production is expected to increase in 2016 due to a rising cattle inventory and continued heavier carcass weights.
This chart is from Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook: June 2015.