Market Update From the West Coast Meatheads
June 4, 2017
The boxed beef market held on early week and suddenly when things look like there were going to quiet down, midday Thursday turned the market on its head. Upside volatility behind product tightness surprised many.
Several items had heavy premiums attached to them if you can even find them. Lean cattle went limit up then extended limit in the last trading session as a result of the bullishness that is now expected to spill into next week; a time when many thought we would see the opposite. August, in fact, closed the highest in the life of the contract. Outside of the main primals, briskets were the clear winner given the support from smokers to start of the season.
Another week, another record for the Choice Rib primal. Retailers and foodservice short bought for upcoming Father’s Day features continued to push prices higher. Select ribs traded in a tight range until the late week frenzy firmed those prices as well.
Strong packer demand, a result of near-record margins combined with a need to fill orders led cash cattle prices higher. Live cattle for forward delivery traded at $128.00/cwt while most others ranged between $135.00/cwt and $137.00/cwt.
This was up from $132.00/ cwt to $133.00/cwt last week. Dressed carcass sales were $214.00/cwt to $216.00/cwt; up from the $208.00/cwt to $210.00/cwt range.
Ribs and strips continued to firm, the former to record levels. It seems retailers still have ads to fill so last minute for Father’s Day that supported the price trend. The bulk of the upside risk appears in now after our late week conversations indicated that the levels hit on middle meats is stretched. The chuck complex started to fade while insides were steady for the most part. Briskets continued to see solid demand from smokers and prices moved significantly higher on the call.
The market post-holiday was rather uneventful, with most changes falling into the slight category. Participants entered the marketplace Tuesday with little expectation; rather were awaiting word on holiday movement and future needs.
There was a brief flurry of post-holiday fill-in activity, but the overall level of enthusiasm diminished in the last few sessions. The loin component was largely supported this week, and premiums emerged throughout the complex, with the exception of boneless loins.
Picnics were supported; in-line with the trend in lean sausage materials. Cushion was mixed. Sellers of butts ran into some resistance from foreign buyers, but up until late-week, product has largely been absorbed domestically. That changed and some weakness began to develop. Spareribs were a mixed-bag when comparing week-over-week trade, but became somewhat susceptible later in the week as seasonal buying interest cools in the period between the holidays. St. Louis Ribs ranged steady to weak, and Loin Back Ribs were unchanged.
Whole birds, WOGs, small and medium sized meat are trading at full market values, buyers are being forced to pay sharp premiums. Jumbo breast meat is more available this week than it has been in over a month. Asked and paid values are testing some but it’s unclear if this is just a minor blip or the new rule; industry observers attribute at least some of the increased supply to added weekend kills. Tenders are receiving an active to brisk call and offerings are held with varying degrees of confidence. Jumbo wings continue to move with relative ease. Small and medium sized wings are generally balanced and trading at fair values. Leg quarters are rated as steady. Whole legs are trading within close range of our listed quotations, if not better. Drumsticks and thighs are moving regularly as is thigh meat and leg meat.