December 1, 2008

US beef prices slide latest five days; pork choppy but up


Wholesale beef prices as of Wednesday afternoon (Nov 26) had declined for five consecutive days and lost nearly US$6.00 per hundredweight during the period on slowed buying interest ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.


The pork carcass values for the same five days were choppy, up three days and down two but US$2.41 higher on Wednesday (Nov 26) than a week earlier.


The US Department of Agriculture's midday beef prices Friday (Nov 28) were lower again, with choice off US$1.36 at US$151.03 and select down US$0.84 at US$141.19.


Market analysts said beef prices may stabilize and possibly turn higher in the near term as additional buying interest from grocers and food-service operators is expected for the Christmas through New Year's holidays. Also, packers paid generally US$3 per hundredweight more for cattle this week, so they are expected to quote higher prices for the beef.


Pork complex prices may see some further gains on speculation that hog supplies will be slightly tighter in the weeks ahead compared with last year and recent weeks. A significant reduction in live hog imports from Canada this fall and a pullback in the domestic breeding herd due to high feed costs have whittled down the number of hogs that will be available for slaughter, according to market analysts and commodity brokers.


While pork and beef supplies are predicted to be down a bit during December from a year ago, exports remain a wild card. Record large export sales of pork through the first nine months of the year helped keep prices from collapsing under the weight of an 8 percent increase in 2008 January-through-September hog slaughter. Prices in late October through November fell to levels that were lower than some analysts had predicted even though slaughter rates had dipped slightly below a year ago most weeks.


The hog and pork market slide also raised concerns that the stronger U.S. dollar and world economic crisis have significantly slowed the export trade. The USDA's data for October meat exports will be available in mid-December.


This week's cattle slaughter was estimated at 572,000 head, compared with 636,000 a week ago and 668,000 for the holiday-shortened week a year ago. Year-to-date cattle slaughter is up 0.1 percent from a year ago.


The week's hog slaughter estimate was 2.067 million head, compared with 2.361 million a week ago and 2.381 million a year ago. Year-to-date slaughter is up 6.7 percent.


The USDA estimated total beef, pork and lamb production for the week at 869.1 million pounds. Last week's output was 979.2 million pounds, and the year-ago figure was 1.022 billion pounds. Year-to-date combined meat output is up 3.0 percent.


Broiler and fryer slaughter this week was estimated at 117.316 million head, compared with 156.960 million a week ago and 169.092 million a year ago.

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