Cattle fundamentals: Cattle did not trade in sufficient volume to establish prices through Thursday of last week and, at week-before levels, were $123-124/cwt. from north to south, 3.8% higher than year ago. A number of bearish fundamentals are at play, including deeply negative packer margins, record-heavy carcass weights and consumer resistance to near-record-high beef prices, Feedstuffs sources noted. However, a number of positive fundamentals also are at play, including ever-tightening cattle supplies and rising demand for U.S. beef, sources said.
Pork drop-off: The hog markets fell $3.93-6.60 last week and were $77.18-79.24/cwt. on a lean carcass basis across the Corn Belt last Thursday, prices equivalent to a $58-60 live cash hog market and 5.1% lower than year ago. However, the long-term outlook is positive, sources said, pointing to decreasing pork production that's projected to decline even more next year, as well as pork production that's dropping off in Canada and Europe.
Boring chickens: The chicken market were "boring" last week, sources said. Deli and fast-food places reported strong business from holiday shoppers looking for quick lunches, but prices were unchanged across the chicken complex. Chickens were 95-98 cents and 85-95 cents/lb. in the East and Midwest last Thursday, prices that were 26.1% higher than year ago, and breast meat was $1.16-1.21/lb., 0.9% more than year ago.
Egg anticipation: The egg markets were barely steady to weak, but producers said they anticipate that business will pick up this week for Christmas holiday baking. Eggs were down 5 cents to $1.31-1.35 and $1.25-1.27/doz. for large-sized eggs delivered to eastern and midwestern store doors last Thursday, 10.1% lower than the comparable week last year. There were also reports that 70 loads of eggs had been booked to Mexico, which continues to deal with lost production after avian influenza hit the country's layer flock.
Weak turkeys: The turkey markets were weak as retailers reported carryovers from Thanksgiving that have sacrificed demand for the December holidays, and sources said orders are lower than last year. Turkeys last Thursday were unchanged to down 6 cents to a national average offer of 93 cents to $1.02/lb. for hen turkeys and 99 cents to $1.02/lb. for retail-sized toms, 8.9% and 6.1% lower than year ago. Fresh tom breast meat was unchanged at $2.05/lb., 21.2% under year ago.
Indecisive dairy: Butter prices were up 0.5 cent last week, but barrel and block cheese prices were both down 3.5 cents in markets that were stalled because processors aren't willing to sell at current prices and buyers are holding out for lower prices, sources said. "Indecisiveness is driving the markets," one source said.