Wholesale beef prices for many cuts are lower than this time last year, but retail prices have not declined yet in turn, said David Anderson, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension economist, Bryan-College Station. Beef and pork production continues to exceed last year’s level despite high feed costs, but demand has kept up with high supplies.
“I suspect part of the retail prices is consumer demand is still there, and there are higher logistical and labor costs being passed along,” he said. “But I would argue a lot of it is timing, and lower wholesale prices have not yet reached consumers at the retail side. In that case, some lower prices might show up over the coming weeks.”
Beef prices higher for consumers
National weekly averages for wholesale beef cuts ranging from boneless rib-eyes to shoulder roasts and brisket were much lower than the week leading into Memorial Day 2021, Anderson said.
Wholesale choice rib-eye steaks were $8.56 per pound compared to $12.63 per pound in 2021, or 32% lower, according to the wholesale report. Choice roasts were $2.62 per pound compared to $3.19 per pound last year, and choice briskets were $2.97 per pound compared to $4.40 per pound last year.
Anderson said beef supplies are as high as this time last year, though he noted grade qualities were above last year with more choice cuts available.
Retail choice rib-eye steaks are one of the exceptions with lower prices at $10.97 per pound compared to $12.37 per pound last year, Anderson said. Brisket retail prices are $4 per pound compared to $3.13 per pound; and flank steaks, which are used in fajitas, were $10.17 per pound compared to $9.77 per pound last year.
More grocery stores are featuring beef cuts compared to last year, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture retail survey. Grocery store features include products with advertised prices, and around 69% of retail stores were featuring various beef cuts. Around 19% were offering beef cuts on special, which is defined as a “no-price” promotion, including “buy one, get one free” or get one free with the purchase of other items.
“It’s interesting that average monthly retail beef prices have not come down in response to the falling wholesale prices,” Anderson said. “It could be that lower wholesale prices are allowing them to run specials leading into Memorial Day, or that we could be heading toward lower retail prices in the near future.”
Pork, chicken prices
Higher retail prices could direct some consumers to lower-cost products like ground beef or to other meats like pork or chicken, Anderson said. However, both pork and chicken are experiencing a similar pricing trend to beef with generally higher prices.
Retail pork cut prices had a wide range with some higher and lower than last year, with spareribs priced $4.82 per pound compared to $3.82 per pound last year, or 21% higher. Retail poultry prices were similarly higher with boneless/skinless breasts coming in $3.25 per pound compared to $2.69 per pound, or 17% higher per pound than last year and boneless thighs being 24% higher at $1.26 per pound compared to 98 cents per pound last year.
“We’re seeing higher costs on most everything, but overall, I think the lower wholesale beef prices give us some hope for lower prices this summer,” he said.
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
Record high temperatures continued with no precipitation. Soil moisture levels were mostly very short. Forecasts called for multiple storm fronts. Winter wheat and oat crops were mostly mature and dried down rapidly under the heat and windy conditions. Wheat harvest started. The corn crop was well into silking stage and drought stressed. Sorghum was developing normally, but some replanted cotton was struggling in drier soils. There were some reports of thrips in cotton. Pasture conditions improved slightly, but rains were needed for hay production. Stock tanks were declining. Cattle were in good body condition.
Conditions were very hot and windy. A small portion of pastureland in the county received trace amounts of rainfall up to half an inch. Some rain helped farmers start to plant cotton and Sudan grass, and forecasts showed chances of much-needed rain in the coming days. A wildfire in Baylor and Wilbarger counties burned 25,000 acres. Cotton planting began on irrigated acres, but very little fieldwork was done overall. Planted corn and sorghum looked decent but needed rain. Pasture conditions were declining. Stocker cattle were being slowly pulled off pasture as resources were becoming scarce. An extremely heavy bloom of mesquite was reported and should lead to a heavy bean crop, which could be bad and good for rangelands, wildlife and livestock. Some wheat harvest was underway. Some wheat fields were cut and baled, and yields were 30% below normal. Coastal Bermuda grass fields looked decent and there should be some baling activity over the next few weeks. Quality levels were expected to be heavily dependent on producers’ fertilization decisions. Calves were gaining weight at a decent rate and looked good for now.
Parts of the district reported up to 2 inches, but most crops continued to show drought stress. Higher-than-normal temperatures during flowering had producers concerned that corn may not set kernels as it should. Some corn fields may be complete losses while others were in fair condition. Sorghum yield expectations were low, but rainfall could provide a bump in seed weight. Cotton was progressing. Some producers applied fertilizer in anticipation of rain. Herbicide applications continued in pastures and hay fields. Rangeland and pasture conditions remained poor to fair. Producers continued to feed protein and hay, and hay prices were high as inventories decreased. Livestock producers continued to cull less valuable stock. Cattle sale numbers remained steady with prices steady to rising.
Hay production was in full swing. Anderson County reported corn, green beans, onions, snow peas, green tomatoes, squash, potatoes and cucumbers were being harvested. More rainfall was needed across the district to continue growth. Pasture and rangeland conditions were fair. Subsoil and topsoil conditions were short to adequate. Livestock were in good condition. Cattle markets were steady on quality calves, but lower on lower quality cattle. Fly populations reached nuisance levels. Feral pig activity and damage was high in pastures and hay meadows.
Some rain fell in parts of the district with up to 1.3 inches reported. Temperatures were at or over 100 degrees. Most farmers were planting cotton, and planting should increase over the coming weeks. Recent rains will give dryland farmers an opportunity to get cotton seeds to germinate if more rain arrives soon. Pumpkin plantings should begin soon. Producers continued to make hard decisions regarding their cattle herds. Culling continued, and producers were planning to wean earlier to get cattle off feed.
Soil moisture levels were very short to short. Overall crop, rangeland and pasture conditions were very poor to poor. Producers were still trying to decide whether to plant this season. Irrigated corn was planted and emerged. Wheatlage was being harvested.
Soil moisture was short to adequate. Most of the district received rain, but water tank levels continued to drop. Wheat farmers were satisfied with this year’s crop overall, but concerns about prolonged drought could impact plantings this fall. Most winter pastures were harvested for hay, and yields were fair. Summer pastures were improving but still needed rain. Corn was in fair to good condition, and oat conditions were good. Sorghum and soybeans were planted. Pasture and rangeland conditions were fair to good.
Conditions remained dry, hot and windy. Temperatures reached 109 degrees. Temperatures cooled over the weekend. Extreme fire dangers existed all week. High winds caused wind erosion. There were reports of dying plant life, including trees. Cotton planting picked up in irrigated acres. Producers were not happy with soil moisture levels, and emergence was questionable. Planting should be in full swing over the coming weeks. Most corn was making good progress, but fields will start sharing water with cotton soon, so rainfall will be necessary for corn to make decent yields. Melons were making very good progress in the heat and starting to set blooms. Pecans were setting small clusters. Pastures remained completely bare of any forage, and producers were selling livestock at a high rate due to poor conditions. Deer feeding in ditches continue to be a hazard for drivers. Deer were expected to become a severe problem in cotton as it begins to emerge. Livestock producers were feeding supplements and heavy hay rations.
Hot and dry conditions continued. Temperatures were in the triple digits all week. All forage growth slowed due to drought. Cotton producers started to plant irrigated acres that was pre-watered while other producers were preparing to plant following potential rainfall in the forecast. Producers continued to supplement livestock with feed and reduce herd numbers.
A soaking rain was reported in some areas. Cattle forage and hay fields were way behind schedule due to drought, and grazing was limited. Rainfall should improve conditions. Rice fields were progressing. Crawfish harvest was wrapping up, and rice plantings should follow. Dryland crops were struggling. Rainfall was in the forecast. Rangeland and pasture conditions ranged from very poor to excellent with fair conditions in most areas. Soil moisture levels were very short to adequate with short levels being most common.
Wheat and oat harvest neared completion with below average yields reported. Corn and sorghum were showing signs of drought stress due to lack of moisture and above average temperatures. Rangelands continued to experience dry condition with wildfire potential. Rains were in the forecast.
The northern, western and eastern areas remained very short on moisture, while soil moisture levels in southern areas were very short to short. A few counties reported soaking rainfall, but most areas remained dry. Temperatures were above normal with daytime highs around 100 degrees. Cattle producers were destocking due to drought and high input costs. Extreme heat was slowing down vegetable production. A high percentage of row crops were total losses in drier areas. Some cotton was starting to square, and heavy cotton aphid pressure was reported with spider mites, whiteflies and thrips reported in a few areas. Some sorghum was flowering or entering the dough stage, and sugarcane aphid pressure was building. Irrigated crops like watermelons, cantaloupes and Coastal Bermuda grass were doing well. Some watermelons were being harvested. Citrus and sugarcane were being irrigated. Little fieldwork was occurring overall. Wildlife, including deer, turkey and feral pigs were browsing along roadsides and entering suburban-urban areas to feed on landscapes. Water sources for wildlife were becoming scarce. Water sources for livestock were declining in some areas and full in others. Producers continued to provide supplemental feed for livestock as rangeland and pasture conditions continued to decline. Sale barns reported above average cattle volumes and steady prices.
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