Negotiated cash fed cattle trade was mostly inactive on very light demand in all major cattle feeding regions through Friday afternoon, according to the Agricultural Marketing Service.
Live prices last week were steady to $3 lower in the Texas Panhandle at $116-$120/cwt., steady to $1 lower in Kansas at $119-$120 and steady at $120 in Nebraska and the western Corn Belt. Dressed prices were steady to $1 higher in Nebraska at $191; steady in the western Corn Belt $189-$191.
Live Cattle futures closed mixed Friday, an average of 46¢ lower through the front four contracts, and then unchanged to an average of 7¢ higher. Part of the pressure likely stemmed from the lack of budge in cash prices, while the rally in wholesale beef values appears long in the tooth.
Choice boxed beef cutout value was 99¢ higher Friday at $330.97/cwt. Select was $3.20 lower at $300.90.
Feeder Cattle futures closed an average of $1.28 lower. Even though Corn futures were mostly 3¢ to 9¢ lower, the steep climb in the previous session continued to apply pressure. Feeder Cattle were down an average of about $3 in the last two sessions.
Total estimated cattle slaughter the week ending May 29 was 629,000 head, according to USDA. That was 40,000 head fewer than the previous week. Total estimated beef production for the week was 518.0 million lbs., which was 32.7 million lbs. less than the prior week.
Major U.S. financial indices edged higher Friday on generally positive economic news.
Personal consumption expenditures (PCE), excluding food and energy, increased $80.3 billion (0.5%), according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. The core PCE price index, excluding food and energy—a key inflation gauge the Federal Reserve monitors—was 3.1% more than a year earlier, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. The pace of inflation was slightly more than analyst expectations but reportedly less than many traders feared.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 64 points higher. The S&P 500 closed 3 points higher. The NASDAQ was up 12 points.
Between new packing plants and plans for expanding current facilities, the North American Meat Institute (the Meat Institute) estimates there’s an additional 4,150 head per day (+4%) packing capacity in various stages of completion. However, even with added capacity, Sarah Little, vice president of communications for the Meat Institute explains, “Labor is, and is likely to remain, a significant factor that affects utilization of production; and is also a factor that will challenge new small and medium sized facilities entering the market.”
As mentioned previously in Cattle Current, there are no easy solutions to the ongoing predicament of lower derivative demand for fed cattle from packers, relative to elevated derivative demand from wholesalers and overall strong consumer beef demand. Economic fundamentals explain the current reality, no matter how frustrating.
Plenty of emotion is understandably involved, but sharing myths as fact hinders legitimate discussion and the search for long-term market solutions. With that in mind, the Meat Institute shared facts to counter several popular cattle market myths. Among them:
Myth: Fed cattle marketing options such as forward contracting and formula-based sales, allow meatpackers to exert more control, limit competition and depress sales in the live cash market.
Fact: Forward contracts and formula-based sales provide an effective way for producers to hedge their risk and lock in prices. They also often pay premiums for quality. This allows packers and producers and feeders to predict needs in advance…In its 2018 report to Congress, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service reported, “Stakeholders were in general agreement that formula-based purchases provide greater benefits, in terms of operational efficiency, for both packers and feedlots.”
Fact: From 2002 to 2019, according to USDA data compiled by economist and industry expert Nevil Speer, PhD, while the number of cattle sold on a cash market basis declined 55%, beef grading in the top two quality grades (Choice and Prime) increased 39%. During the same period of time, consumer per capita beef expenditures increased 56%.
Myth: Packers can control prices and defy expectations of market fundamentals.
Fact: The cattle market works as economists would have predicted, given the current conditions: when supplies of cattle increase, prices decrease, and vice versa.
Fact: There appears to be insufficient long-term profitability to attract many investors to the beef packing sector. According to Rabobank analysts, “Several considerable hurdles must be addressed by both incumbents and new entrants…First, the upfront cost of a new plant is extremely expensive…$100 million to $120 million USD for every 1,000 head of daily capacity.
“… the capital depth and longevity required to build and maintain a new plant through its first cattle cycle precludes most would-be investors from considering such a project…That’s not a recipe for thin capital or weak hearts.”