Current Edition

current edition

Not So Bad

Written by Dennis Sun

Ever since the first of the year, all we have heard about the price of calves was that the market was supposed to be weak. While calves were expected to be better than last summer, there wasn’t much to support higher prices all summer.

While we did have some minor drops in calf prices off and on, calf prices were not so bad for most of the summer. Last week in an article from Drovers Cattle Network, they said the market in 2017 was expected to be slightly different than in 2016. Given the adequate rainfall, good forage conditions across most of the cow/calf country and really good prospects for winter wheat grazing in the Southern Plains, calf prices are expected to have more support than normal through the remainder of September and possibly through the first half of October.

And this makes sense, as many producers are holding onto their calves longer than last year, and strong demand is coming from stocker producers. This is surprising to me, but CattleFax proved it true this week, saying that feeder and calf sale receipts were at $10.97 million year-to-date and above the three-year average while video and internet auction receipts were at $1.91 million year-to-date, lower than last year and the three-year average. These facts do prove that people are holding off on selling their calves longer, as there was a large run last week through the auctions.

With strong demand from exports, the good news from China accepting beef from the U.S., demand from packers this summer and the best news of America’s consumers listing beef as their first protein choice, so for the most part, calf prices have stayed steady to up.

The consumers’ protein choice was highlighted in the Consumer Beef Index (CBI), a key research survey that the beef checkoff performs twice a year. CBI tracks changes in consumers’ perceptions of beef and the demand for beef relative to other meat proteins, and it assesses the impact of the beef industry’s communication efforts on consumers. It also measures the extent to which consumers consider the positive aspects of beef to outweigh the negatives.

Seventy-seven percent of those surveyed listed beef as their first protein choice when it came to proteins overall, and 93 percent reported eating beef at least monthly. But the bad news is, the survey results showed that the proportion of heavy beef eaters – or those eating beef more than three times a week – stands at only 25 percent, down significantly from 44 percent 10 years ago. 

Polly Ruhland, Cattlemen’s Beef Board former chief executive officer, said “There is less beef available on a per capita basis than in the year 2000, but while that has changed in the last two years, the perception by consumers is that beef prices are higher, so they are eating less beef.”

CBI helps those in beef checkoff programs to understand why consumers say they are eating less beef and address those concerns through advertising campaigns, social media channels and in the grocery stores. That is your beef checkoff at work for you. Don’t mess with it.

Grilling season is over, and there are large amounts of beef and pork waiting to hit the grocery stores, so meat prices should drop at the grocery stores. Hopefully, if consumers like beef that much, they will start buying more of it.