Fed cattle prices are finally on the top side of $150 per hundredweight (cwt) with last week’s six-state average of $151 per cwt paid for steers. It has been a long upward grind to this point, but the past two weeks have displayed a little more excitement with a small amount of trade in the North as high as $155 per cwt.
Daily fed cattle slaughter volumes have proven to be workable for packers in the 100,000 head range, with two days at that level to start last week. Oct. 26 and Oct. 27 each touched 99,000 head followed by Oct. 28 smaller 96,000 head.
The faster weekday pace has allowed packers to reduce Oct. 29 totals. The most recent total of 21,000 head is the lower end of the range seen this fall.
Carcass cutout values moved higher in last week’s averages. The Choice cutout was up $5.50 per cwt and Select was up $4.60 per cwt. The Choice/Select spread hit $33.91 per cwt, effectively adding $89.52 per head to Choice carcasses above the cash market average, which is calculated on a generic 70 percent Choice packing plant average.
The Certified Angus Beef (CAB)/Choice spread narrowed to $15.39 per cwt as the CAB cutout increased just $0.86 per cwt on the week. The wholesale Prime carcass cutout premium above Choice dropped to $86.44 per cwt, down from the record $92.21 per cwt just three weeks ago.
It’s obvious Prime middle meats, the primary source of Prime product sales volume, are commanding premiums into the stratosphere. This pulls the traditional, premium Choice CAB brand product into focus as it’s more widely available and affordable within the premium end of the market.
Turning the calendar to November, it’s no surprise CAB ribeyes are on an upward pricing pattern, gaining seven percent in three weeks. There’s a likelihood for more upward pressure in the thinly traded spot market moving forward.
A large volume of holiday ribeye purchases have already been done with product placed in “nearly frozen” refrigeration. The current ribeye price pattern is much more aligned with historic seasonal norms than the 14 percent higher wholesale price seen a year ago.
Tenderloins, on the other hand, are trading at record highs for the current timeframe, spiking 24 percent in spot market price in the past four weeks. Meanwhile, strip loins are following the seasonal price pattern fit perfectly to the prior three years.
Strip loin prices tend to decline sharply from late August through early November. Strips are down 28 percent since August, most recently at a wholesale bargain of $6.68 per pound, the lowest price since January 2021.
CAB refines hot carcass weight specification
Through a consistent premium beef experience, the CAB brand provides economic incentives to cattlemen up and down the supply chain. The brand’s commitment to aggregating winning outcomes is reliant on the relevance of the brand’s carcass specifications to each sector of the beef industry, and ultimately, the consumer. This commitment to evolve as the overall industry progresses has resulted in the brand’s recent adjustment of the hot carcass weight (HCW) maximum to 1,100 pounds.
Historically, fed cattle carcass weights have increased, on average, by five pounds annually. As well, economic conditions in the production sector suggest the trend for heavier carcasses is likely in place for the foreseeable future. The brand’s HCW adjustment means a potential increase of three to four percent of carcasses accepted into the brand. Its additional specifications remain an important parameter in continuing to address optimal final product cut size.
While this weight adjustment is reflective of the industry trend, it’s not prescriptive to cattlemen. Cow/calf producers have long been progressive in seeking genetics to improve production efficiency in a few different ways. Upticks in pre- and post-weaning growth traits are reflected in heavier finished cattle and subsequent carcass weight trends, supporting terminal efficiencies.
At the same time, cow/calf producers are tasked with balancing maternal efficiency needs at the farm or ranch. No doubt Angus breeders and commercial cattlemen will continue to seek the optimum mix of the two.
The carcass weight limit change was implemented by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Canadian Beef Grading Agencies on Oct. 31. This update will impact supply through improved product availability in a high-demand market while cattlemen will benefit through more quality-rich cattle deservedly rewarded.
Paul Dykstra is the assistant director of supply management and analysis at CAB. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.