By Joanna Levin
RETAIL beef prices are setting new highs for 1998, thanks to improved wholesale demand as Americans light up their barbecues. The choice-grade joints on 550-700lb carcasses climbed to 102.8¢/lb on Monday (4 May), from 99.2¢/lb a week ago.
Many packers see a further jump in boxed beef prices over the next 10 days ahead of the Memorial Day weekend, and are stepping up their slaughter rate. Packers slaughtered 129,000 head on Monday, one of the highest figures for the start of the week in many months.
Better product prices are filtering through to live cattle. As of the start of this week, packers were bidding 66-67¢/lb for fed cattle while sellers were asking 68-70¢/lb, compared with 64¢ bids and 67¢ offers a week ago.
Feeder cattle prices rallied strongly last week, but gave back some of their gains early this week because of strength in the corn market. The Chicago May feeder cattle contract closed on Monday at 76.7¢/lb, off slightly from last Thursdays high of just over 77¢ but still up 1.1¢/lb from a week ago.