By Joanna Newman

AMERICANS are eating more burgers this, which is driving up beef prices and helping fuel a rally in cattle values.

Even the relative cheapness of pork, triggered by the 20% collapse in pig prices over the past couple of months, has failed to dampen the enthusiasm for beef.

The boxed beef cutout value for lightweight (600-750lb) choice-grade carcasses is over 117¢/lb (162p/kg), up from 113¢ a week ago.

This has improved margins for slaughterhouses and enabled livestock producers to charge 66-67¢/lb (91p/kg) on a cash basis for live cattle, compared with 64-65¢ in May.

The enthusiasm at the slaughter and retail end of the supply chain has helped the Chicago August live cattle contract to 64.7¢/lb on Tuesday (15 June), up from about 63¢ at the start of the month.

Meanwhile ranchers are enjoying good conditions to fatten up their lightweight feeder (store) cattle.

Feedgrain is plentiful and cheap, the supply of feeder cattle is tightening up, and mild wet weather is improving the rate of weight gain both on pasture and in the feedlot pens.

As a result, the price of feeder cattle has risen, with the Chicago August feeder cattle contract at 77.9¢/lb on Tuesday (15 June), up from 75¢ at the start of June.