Boxed beef prices have been moving upward, and on Monday reached a new milestone with the Select cutout gaining $4.16 per hundredweight to average $201.38 per hundredweight. Prices moved even higher on Tuesday, with the Choice cutout gaining $1.77 to average $207.31 per hundredweight and select gaining $2.18 to a new high of $203.56, according to USDA’s National Daily Cattle and Beef Summary.
A week earlier on December 31, the Choice cutout averaged $200.65 and Select was $196.41 per hundredweight.
The Choice cutout first topped the $200 mark during the spring of 2013, peaking at averages around $110 per hundredweight. After seasonal declines during the summer, Choice boxed beef averaged in a range between about $195 and $205 per hundredweight through most of the fourth quarter of 2013.
An overall shortage of finished cattle, possibly compounded by severe weather slowing shipments, has led to a reduction in slaughter numbers and beef production over the past week. The Tuesday report estimated week-to-date steer and heifer slaughter at 217,000 head, down from 230,000 for the same period last week and 252,000 during the same period last year. Beef production last week is estimated at 345 million pounds, compared with 417 million during the same week last year.
February live cattle futures closed at $136.52 and the December contract closed at $136.35 on Tuesday. Last week, finished cattle sold at record-high prices above $137 per hundredweight.