December 29, 2008


US wholesale beef, pork prices remain slightly under year ago

US wholesale choice and select beef prices along with the pork carcass composite value remain slightly below a year ago after slumping during the month.


Choice beef prices have been under year-ago price in 16 of the 18 business days this month, and the only time prices have been above the 2007 levels were the first two days of the month. Select beef values were up from a year ago through the middle of the month but have been down by 1-2 percent from 2007 most days since.


On Wednesday (Dec 24), choice beef prices were off 2.3 percent from last year while select was down 1.4 percent, according to the Dow Jones Newswires daily beef-o-metre comparison.


The pork cutout has followed a similar trend as select beef. The USDA's daily quotes showed pork prices above last year for the first half of the month but below in six of the last seven days.


Market analysts said a combination of factors is pressuring meat prices. These include the economic crisis, cautious buying in the wholesale meat markets by grocers and foodservice operations, and concerns that consumers will purchase less meat or buy down to the cheaper cuts to save money on their food bills throughout the winter.


In addition, there are anecdotal reports of slowed export sales during November and December, compared with earlier in the year, which would indicate a larger portion of the production was available for the domestic market.


The USDA will not issue beef and pork price reports Friday (Dec 26) due to the extended Christmas holiday. Wednesday's pork carcass value was quoted at US$56.29 per hundredweight, the lowest since November 24. The 2008 low in the pork cutout value was set on April 1 at US$54.87.


Last week's cattle slaughter was estimated at 450,000 head, compared with 595,000 a week ago and 488,000 a year ago. Year-to-date cattle slaughter is down 0.5 percent from a year ago.

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