Ron Sterk

Beef and pork cutout values, a common gauge of wholesale red meat demand and pricing compiled daily by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, climbed to near two-year highs in early June on strong domestic and export demand, while the supply picture was mixed.

The U.S.D.A. boxed beef cutout value averaged just over $250 a cwt in the five days ended June 16, topping at $252.52 a cwt on June 12, the highest since June 2015. The pork cutout averaged just over $94 a cwt for the same period, with a high of $94.90 on June 14, the highest since October 2014.

The cutout value for beef consists of pricing for seven primal cuts (rib, chuck, round, loin, brisket, short plate and flank) weighted by number of loads sold. The pork cutout consists of pricing for six primal cuts (loin, butt, picnic, rib, ham and belly) also weighted by number of loads.

Beef demand and prices typically see a surge in late May ahead of Memorial Day, the first major grilling weekend of the summer. Demand tends to ease some but remain strong through Labor Day weekend, the “official” end of the outdoor grilling season. Pork prices often are underpinned by strong beef prices, which has been the case this year. Current prices also are above year-ago levels, with the beef cutout up 13% and the pork cutout up 10% as of mid-June.

In its June 15 Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook, the U.S.D.A. noted April beef production was down slightly from April 2016. The number of cattle slaughtered was up 2%, but average dressed weights (after slaughter) of steers and heifers were down 25 lbs and 22 lbs, respectively, from a year ago. Beef production at 1,963 million lbs in April was down 13% from March 2017.

Red meat
Beef and pork cutout values climbed to near two-year highs in early June.