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Grilling Season Kicks Off With High but Stable Meat Prices

By Adam Russell

A report by Texas A&M Department of Agricultural Economics experts indicated a mixed bag of slight price increases and decreases for beef, pork and poultry throughout grilling season.

Consumer costs for primary beef and pork offerings like ground beef, chuck roasts, sirloin steaks and pork chops are expected to increase around 1% between May and October, while chicken cuts like boneless breasts are expected to decrease by more than 2% during the same time.

The Summer 2024 Meat Prices report was authored by Simon Somogyi, Ph.D., director of the Weston Agrifood Sales Program and Dr. Kerry Litzenberg Sales and Economics Endowed Chair in the department. Report co-authors include David Anderson, Ph.D., professor and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service specialist – livestock and food product marketing; Yong Liu, Ph.D., assistant professor; and Weifang Liang, a doctoral student – all in the department.

Somogyi said prices continue to remain near historic highs, but market trends are showing lower retail costs for consumers compared to last year. Consumers should expect a price spike as the Memorial Day holiday weekend kicks off grilling season that typically peaks with Fourth of July celebrations.

“Prices may spike and fluctuate that first month of grilling season due to higher demand from people eating at restaurants and cooking out at home,” he said. “But prices should stabilize after that.”

Price expectations are averaged across the U.S., and Somogyi said retail prices will be heavily influenced by location and price discounting like grocery specials.

Meat markets stabilize before grilling season

The price forecasts reflect market dynamics across beef, pork and poultry products typically purchased for summer cookouts, Somogyi said.

He attributed the anticipated price increases for ground beef and chuck roast to the seasonal surge in demand during summer grilling season. Beef consumption increases historically during this period, pushing prices upward.

Ground beef continues to benefit from consistent consumer demand, particularly in the fast-food sector, Somogyi said. Lean beef wholesale prices have surged higher on declining supplies while ample supplies of fed beef remain available.

Total meat supplies are expected to decline compared to last year with production increases in chicken and pork not fully offsetting reduced beef production, Somogyi said.

Beef production has declined 2% compared to this time last year, he said. That reduction comes after a 5% dip in beef production in 2023 compared to the same time in 2022.  

Meanwhile, the U.S. cow herd is the smallest since 1961. Two years of severe drought in Texas, which accounts for more than 14% of beef cattle nationally, factored into the decline. This means fewer cows are going to market, which in turn puts pressure on supplies and ultimately causes upward price trends at grocery stores.

Ground beef prices were expected to increase an average of 6 cents per pound to $5.19 by October compared to $5.16 in May. Prices have come down about 20 cents per pound since they peaked in November, but still remain higher than the pre-pandemic price of $4.50 per pound in April 2019.

No surprise price spikes expected

Pork chops were expected to follow a similar retail price trend, Somogyi said. They are expected to increase a few cents per pound on average as the pork industry has faced challenges over the past year. These challenges include rising input costs that led to the worst industry-wide losses in 25 years.

Somogyi expects those mounting losses for producers to constrain pork production and supplies, adding to the upward pressure on prices for consumers.

However, he sees a divergent trend with chicken prices, particularly boneless breasts, due to poultry production efficiencies and stable feed costs. Prices for boneless chicken breasts were expected to decline from $4.06 per pound to $3.91 per pound on average.

Somogyi said the poultry industry has more agility to react to market demands, including production costs and supply chain improvements that are favorable for consumers. The sector has also been diligent in battling Avian influenza.

Broiler chickens grown for meat take around six weeks to produce compared to 22-26 weeks for swine and 12-14 months for a cow to reach processing weight.

“I think the key takeaway is from where prices are now and the forecast report is that prices are relatively stable,” he said. “Most categories are at or near historic highs but factors like falling feed prices and lower input costs are helping mitigate future price spikes or rocketing prices like we’ve witnessed for some meat categories in the past few years.”

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

crops

A map of the 12 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension districts.

Central

The district experienced storms that brought hail to a few areas and flooding to others with rain averaging between 1-2 inches. In the flooded areas, fence lines were damaged, and some animals were lost. One area received hail damage to corn, wheat and oat crops. Wheat continued to look good, even with excess moisture. However, the instance of lodged wheat increased with added moisture, storms and wind. Corn looked excellent with tasseling and silking observed in most crops. Some localized corn fields suffered from excess moisture, especially in terrace channels. Many Bermuda grass fields looked good and will be ready to cut in coming weeks. Ponds continued to fill. Livestock were in good condition, and the cattle market was strong.

Rolling Plains

The district averaged more than 1 inch of rain. There were varying amounts of wheat rust in a few counties due to moisture. Wheat was nearing maturity and baling was winding down. Some days of sunshine and dry skies would help allow time for producers to prepare fields for cotton and Sudan grass planting before wheat harvest begins. Cattle were in great shape from the spring wheat pasture grazing, and all livestock drinking sources were in good shape going into the warmer months.

Coastal Bend

Some areas received modest rain showers, but most areas were dealing with drought conditions. Widespread rains were needed to avoid yield losses. Recent rains were beneficial for crops, with cool-season hay production wrapping up and warm-season forages showing promise. Field crops were experiencing moisture deficits, impacting potential yields, while cotton and sorghum required insecticide spraying. There were insect issues reported in cotton fields and rangeland. Range and pasture conditions weaken due to missed rains and livestock consumption. Pasture conditions were holding, but moisture was crucial for forage production. Drought conditions persisted, impacting pasture and hay yields. Although cattle maintained good condition, the lack of rainfall was a concern. Pastures and hay fields also needed moisture even though livestock fared well.

East

Rainfall continued with most counties thoroughly saturated in the region. Subsoil and topsoil conditions ranged from adequate to surplus. There has been a big concern with flooding, especially in low-lying areas. Producers were having difficulty getting into pastures and hay meadows to fertilize or cut hay due to the current soggy conditions. There also were reports of increasing fly populations, and feral hogs were becoming a problem. Grasses were growing and greening up enough for cattle to graze. Livestock were in fair to good condition and cattle market prices were steady to higher.

Southeast

Rainfall ranged from a small amount to over 19 inches with flooding observed in many creeks, rivers and bayous. Soil moisture levels ranged from adequate to surplus. Pastures were oversaturated in some areas. Grain sorghum fields were not looking good after too much rain, and rice planting came to a halt. Farmers were not water seeding rice due to risks of loss to birds. Pastures looked decent but the weather was not cooperating for some farmers to spray for weeds. Some pastures were showing grass death from standing water. Cotton planting was wrapping up in some areas, but major rain events delayed final planting and slowed emergence. Rangeland pastures varied from very poor to excellent. Some livestock displacement or relocation occurred due to excessive flooding in low-lying and flood-prone areas.

South Plains

The district received rainfall that ranged from trace amounts to half an inch. Wheat grain was in the soft dough stage and early applied spring pre-emerge was starting to break loose in irrigated ground. Some wheat was being baled or chopped for silage. Alfalfa was starting to grow and fill in. Producers were battling resistant kochia and other missing weeds from preplant burndown. In most areas, producers were also doing maintenance on irrigation systems, including pumps, pivots and drip systems. Corn was being planted behind the wheat coming out.

Panhandle

Widespread showers fell late in the week, but significant amounts of rain were needed to adequately replenish evaporating soil profile moisture. Corn and cotton planting continued. Some fields of headed wheat and triticale in the soft dough stage were being chopped for silage, especially those fields affected by two suspected new plant diseases that, according to observations, had been widespread. Wheat harvest begins in the next few weeks. Native pastures started to green up due to soil temperatures increasing. Overall soil moisture reported from short to adequate. Pasture and range conditions reported from very poor to fair.

North

Most areas in the region ranged from 1-6 inches of rain, with some areas reporting flooding where heavy rain fell. Some areas reported damage resulting in wheat and oat crops more than 80% destroyed. In most counties, fields were difficult to navigate, making it difficult to plant. Flooded areas were also experiencing nitrogen deficiency due to the excess moisture. In other areas, corn was thriving due to ample moisture. Warm-season grasses were doing well with ryegrass pastures maturing. Topsoil and subsoil moisture conditions ranged from adequate to surplus across the region with pastures being good to fair, with a few reporting excellent conditions. Horn fly population increased with wet conditions, but there were no major disease or insect outbreaks to report.

Far West

Temperatures varied drastically with a front that dropped nighttime temperatures to the upper 50s with daytime temperatures ranging from the mid-70s up to the 90s. Only trace amounts of rain were reported in most areas, but rainfall ranged from 0.5-5 inches in other areas. Most of the district remained in high fire danger. Producers in most areas were very concerned about getting irrigated cotton to emerge and dryland cotton was not expected to emerge. Planting in some areas started where moisture was available. Corn and melons were doing well. Irrigation water continued to flow in the Rio Grande Valley. Pecan, alfalfa and grasses were currently being watered. Cotton started emerging in most areas. Rolling cultivators were in the process of preparing cotton fields for irrigation around early June. The pecan orchard floor was being worked and prepared for mowing and/or light disking. Alfalfa production looked good for this early part of the season. Rangeland and pastures were greening up some, but still have a long way to go. All wheat has been baled for hay or grazed out by livestock. Cattle were back to grazing the areas that remained green. Livestock were in fair condition and producers continued to supplement feed for livestock and wildlife.

West Central

The district averaged between a small amount of rain to more than 4-6 inches in others. Ranchers in one area were assessing damages from the Lampasas River flash flooding. Some ranchers reported hay and animal losses with many fields and fences taken out from the flooding. Some cutting and baling of hay was observed, and some producers were planning to harvest hay. Producers who were not affected by flooding continued to bale oat and Bermuda hay and spray fields for weeds. Winter wheat harvest will start as soon as fields dry out. Corn looked good, and cotton planting in some areas was expected to start soon. Grain and forage sorghum was already being planted with good emergence of acreage so far. Rangeland and pastures were improving in some areas while others needed more rain. Some areas were reporting small grasshoppers. Livestock conditions looked good, and prices were steady. Replacement cattle sold steady.

Southwest

Rainfall ranged from very light rain to 1 inch and conditions have been very warm to hot with some areas being close to 100 degrees. Skies were overcast with humidity ranging from 80%-90%. The northern end of Blanco County reported baseball-sized hail and hail damage was seen in fruit trees. Warming conditions did not have any impact on crop or livestock performance. A heavy caterpillar presence remained around trees, but no significant damage was reported. Corn was beginning to tassel. Wheat and oat harvest should start soon, and sorghum looked good. The continued dry conditions helped hay harvest continue. Range and pasture conditions improved and there was additional growth of beneficial brush. The forages were enjoying the extra moisture, but overcast skies deprived them of adequate sunlight. Spring shearing was nearly complete. Stock tanks were also filling up due to the rain. Livestock were under supplementation but were mostly in fair condition.

South

The district experienced temperatures ranging from the 70s to the 100s with some areas going as high as 102 degrees. Rainfall ranged from no rain to up to 2.5 inches. Peanut planting began. Watermelon harvest began, and sunflowers were maturing. Corn was in the middle of silking, but each day of drought was eroding yield potential in the corn and grain sorghum crop. The cotton crop was thriving the past few weeks but will need rain to set squares. Hay producers were baling coastal and grass fields and were hoping for a rain to finish out their hay grazer fields. A few areas were reporting sugarcane aphids on grain sorghum, and corn leaf hoppers were reported in others. There was little insect pressure reported in cotton crops. Pasture and rangeland conditions were good in some areas while others continued to decline with cattle having to search for good quality grazing. Wildlife and cattle still needed supplemental feeding as pastures and ranges were slowly improving. Cattle market numbers were beginning to increase as grazing decreased. Calf prices remained somewhat steady while bull and cow prices have fallen.

Source : tamu.edu

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