Noting complaints about dwindling competition, the USDA listed several ways to improve price transparency in the cattle market on Wednesday and offered to assist stakeholders and policymakers in exploring options to assure fair prices and level the playing field between producers and processors.
Food prices rose sharply for the second month in a row, with beef recording its largest one-month increase ever, as the U.S. food inflation rate hit 4 percent in May, said the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Wednesday. It is the highest rate since January 2012. While food prices surged, the overall U.S. inflation rate for the past 12 months was a tiny 0.1 percent. (No paywall)
Wholesale beef prices have jumped to record levels, as shoppers stockpile meat in response to the global coronavirus pandemic. But this run on beef isn’t helping cattle ranchers. On the contrary, cattle prices have plummeted since January, putting many ranchers on the brink of collapse. “It’s never been worse. The futures market is crashing … and box beef prices are skyrocketing. It’s nuts,” says rancher Mike Callicrate of St. Francis, Kansas. (No Paywall)
Last week, several Midwestern feedlot owners along with the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF) filed a class-action lawsuit alleging that dominant meatpackers conspired to depress cattle prices starting in 2015. The case argues that JBS, Tyson, Cargill, and National Beef strategically cut back on open market cattle bids, closed plants, and imported costly foreign cattle in order to force farmers to accept lower prices and manipulate spot market cattle values.(No paywall)
The U.S. hog inventory is up 3 percent from a year ago, according to a quarterly report by USDA. Beef and poultry production are also expanding, leading USDA to forecast a nearly 4-percent increase in the meat supply this year. The increase is so large that per capita meat consumption is expected to increase by 5.6 pounds, to 222.4 pounds per person.
The U.S. hog inventory is 2 percent larger than a year ago, an indicator that pork supplies will expand in the year ahead, according to USDA's quarterly Hogs and Pigs report. "Consumers want pork. America's pig farmers are delivering with excellent production performance," says National Hog Farmer, a trade publication, which cites an analysis that the low unemployment rate will mean higher earnings for American in 2018 and drive up meat prices.
Grocery prices will virtually stand still in 2017, the second year in a row of unusually low food-price inflation with lower beef and pork prices a factor, says the government. Retail food prices are estimated to rise 1 percent in the new year after falling 0.75 percent this year; typically grocery prices rise 2.5 percent a year.
U.S. food prices will rise by a marginal 1 percent this year, the second-smallest increase since 1974, and it's all due to lower grocery prices, said a government forecast. Groceries, which are the bulk of food spending, would cost less this year than they did in 2015 — the first taste of price deflation at the supermarket since 1967.
U.S. red meat and poultry production in the final half of this year will be 3-percent higher than the same period in 2015, say USDA economists. The rapid expansion in the beef, pork and poultry supply will mean lower market prices across the board, with cattle down 11.7 percent, hogs down 8.3 percent, broiler chickens down 5 percent and turkeys down 6.8 percent.