RETAIL prices for beef, pork and chicken set new record highs in October, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
USDA released both the September and October retail data last week; the September data were delayed due to the federal government shutdown in October.
Choice beef prices hit a record $5.355/lb. in October, up 7% from a year ago. Pork prices averaged $3.809/lb., up 9.3% from last year and one of the strongest year-over-year gains on record.
Composite broiler prices, likewise, saw a huge increase over October 2012, up 8.6% to $2.031/lb. Even turkey prices posted record highs, with an average retail price of $1.819/lb. in September, a 12.2% increase over the same month a year ago.
Economists Steve Meyer and Len Steiner pointed out in the "Daily Livestock Report" that turkey prices have rebounded significantly over the past few months, with the September record representing a 14% jump in prices from a "shockingly low price" recorded in June of this year.
"When combined with per capita consumption figures, these retail prices indicate that meat and poultry demand remains generally strong so far in 2013," they said. "In fact, we would characterize pork and chicken demand as very strong."
Pork demand has gained 4.1% versus one year ago for January through September, they noted, and has gained 3.1% versus one year earlier for the past 12 months. Those same figures for chicken are 2.9% higher year to date and 3.4% higher for the past 12 months.
Beef demand is stronger as well, but the percentage gains are between 1.3% and 1.9%. Turkey demand is still lagging behind year-ago levels but has improved significantly since June.
Oklahoma State University economist Jayson Lusk reported that consumer "willingness to pay" (WTP) for most food products was up again in November, based on the results of his monthly "Food Demand Survey," although slightly less so for higher-value cuts such as steaks and pork chops.
Lusk found that WTP in mid-November was up 2.5% for chicken breast, up 11.8% for chicken wings and up 1.2% for hamburger. By comparison, WTP was actually down 0.3% for steak and down 1.2% for pork chops.
Consumers said they spent an average of $94 on groceries during the month, down 2.61% from October, and spent $45.31 on food away from home, up 1.06% from a month ago. Survey respondents said they anticipate spending more money next month on food consumed at home, and they are expecting further price increases for beef and pork.