Cattle and Beef Markets Move Past Spring Peaks

Fed cattle prices matched March seasonal peaks with another peak in late April but appear to be declining seasonally now. From the April peak just over $128/cwt., fed cattle prices this past week dropped to around $120/cwt., the lowest fed prices since last December. Choice boxed beef price peaked in late April at just over $233/cwt. and have since decreased $10/cwt. in the past two weeks. The early round of summer grilling wholesale purchases for Memorial Day are past and middle meat prices are steady to weak with an apparent early first seasonal peak for some cuts, especially ribeyes. This may reflect widespread wet, cold weather across much of the country that is delaying summer beef demand.  Boxed beef cutout values will likely strengthen again with July 4 buying commencing in middle to late May. Warmer summer weather should also boost beef demand seasonally in the coming weeks. Part of the weakness in boxed beef prices is due to weaker end meat prices in the chuck and round. While end meat prices are typically weaker in the summer, current weakness, especially for chuck products may additionally reflect weaker export demand so far in 2019. Latest trade data for March show beef exports down 5.7 percent year over year, with reduced exports to Japan, Canada and Hong Kong while South Korea and Mexico continue to be growing markets for U.S. beef.  For the first quarter, total beef exports were down 4.7 percent from one year ago. Growth in beef exports the past three years has been especially strong…

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