Surge in beef prices
Food shoppers in South Korea, Mexico and Japan are fueling a surge in U.S. beef prices just as demand is set to reach a seasonal peak this month and retailers including Sam’s Club promote the meat in stores.
Retail beef rose to a record $4.475 a pound in March, up 13 percent from a year earlier, after all-time highs the previous three months, U.S. Department of Agriculture data show. The USDA will report April prices today. Supplies have tightened as South Korea tripled imports of U.S. beef in the first quarter from a year earlier, and Japan’s purchases rose 63 percent, data show.
Costs are gaining at a time when consumers usually boost purchases by 25 percent from April 1 to the end of May, when warmer weather encourages grilling outdoors, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association said, citing data from FreshLook Marketing Group LLC. The three-day weekend that includes the Memorial Day holiday, on May 30 this year, is usually the busiest, the Livestock Marketing Information Center estimates.
“We’re probably going to have records in each of the first six months of 2011,” said Ron Plain, a livestock economist at the University of Missouri in Columbia who has been studying the industry for three decades. “It’s a tight meat supply and especially tight beef supply, and so we’ve got record prices.”
Per-capita supplies of beef may drop 4.1 percent in 2012, after the U.S. cattle herd on Jan. 1 was the smallest for that time of year since 1958, USDA data show.
U.S. exporters shipped 633.3 million pounds (287.3 million kilograms) of beef in the first three months of 2011, up 32 percent from the same period a year ago, the latest government data show.
South Korea is the biggest buyer, after the nation’s worst outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease...
... Rising costs may discourage purchases of higher-priced cuts in favor of ground beef or other meats, including chicken or pork, said Trevor Amen, marketing manager at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association in Denver...