Bureau of Labor Statistics survey data compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS) showed that retail beef, pork and chicken prices drifted lower in September, according to the Livestock Market Information Center (LMIC).
The decline for beef and pork reversed a trend of rising prices during the summer months, LMIC noted, adding that chicken prices have also moved within a narrow range since February.
The biggest retail price decline from August to September was for Choice beef, which fell 15 cents/lb. Even with the drop, however, LMIC pointed out that prices were still 2% higher than at the same time last year. This compares with retail pork prices that were 5% lower than a year earlier and chicken prices that were a fraction of a percent lower.
ERS also calculates a monthly “all fresh” retail beef price, which declined 4 cents/lb. in September but was slightly higher (up less than 1%) than a year earlier.
According to LMIC, the lower pork price was driven by bacon. Nationally, September bacon prices averaged $5.50/lb., which was lower than the record price of $6.36/lb. in September 2017.
Price declines for pork chops were more moderate than for bacon, ranging from 10 to 20 cents/lb. from a year earlier, depending on the product form, LMIC said. Ham prices, on the hand, were moving in the opposite direction, up less than 1% for August but up 3% from a year earlier.
Grocery store chicken prices fell 2 cents/lb. from August, reaching the lowest level since January, LMIC said.
“ERS calculates an average chicken price based on the composite value of parts. On a quarterly basis, that average price fell below $1.90 in the last quarter of 2016 and has not returned to that level since. Retail prices ... are not likely to move back up to that level in the coming months as inventories in cold storage are record large and are increasing at an ominous rate,” LMIC explained.
Prices for chicken parts at the wholesale level were down 20-30% from a year ago during the summer quarter.
LMIC reported that ground beef prices in September moved lower, similar to the ERS measure of all fresh beef, with the exception of the lean or extra-lean grades that were up 2 cents/lb.
“The declining price trend for fresh beef during September has been the general rule since 2011, with declines of 2-5 cents every year, except in 2014,” LMIC noted. “In 2014, cow slaughter was down close to 20% from the prior year, and beef production declined by nearly 5%, resulting in tight supplies of beef grinding material.”
During the last three years, the all fresh beef price in grocery stores has continued to decline during the last quarter of the year, LMIC explained, adding, “Wholesale price trends for beef trimmings in recent months were moving lower relative to the first half of the year, which should keep retail ground beef prices on the defensive.”