Profit Tracker: Beef Packer Losses Largest since 2017


The pendulum continues swinging toward cattle feeders as cash prices jumped $3 last week and left packers with their largest negative margins in nearly six years. Average cattle feeding margins were estimated at $165 per head the week ending Nov. 26, 2022, according to the Sterling Beef Profit Tracker. Those average margins were up $41 per head from the previous week.

Beef packer margins were estimated at a $28 per head loss, the largest per head loss for packers since Jan. 2017, according to Sterling’s database. That compares with packer profits of $488 per head the same week a year ago.

Last week’s Choice beef cutout averaged $251.23 per cwt., down $1.86 from the previous week and down $18.81 per cwt. from a year ago.

Costs associated with finishing cattle have increased dramatically since April. The cattle sold last week carried a total feed cost of $597 per head, which is 23% higher than the $465 feed costs for cattle sold the same week a year ago. The Beef and Pork Profit Trackers are calculated by Sterling Marketing, Vale, Oregon.

Cattle marketed last week had a breakeven of $144.63 per cwt., while cattle placed on feed last week have a breakeven of $151.69 per cwt. Cattle placed last week are calculated to have a purchase price for 750-800 lb. feeder steers at $174.62 per cwt., and feed costs of $590 per head. The feeder steer price is 13% higher than last year.

The estimated total cost for finishing a steer last week was $2,024 per head, up 15% from last year’s estimate of $1,725 per head.

Cattle slaughter totaled an estimated 581,000 674,000 head, about 14,000 head more than the same week last year. Packing plant capacity utilization was estimated at 78.1% compared to 90.6% the previous week and 77.9% last year.

Farrow-to-finish hog producers found profits of $8 per head last week, up about $6 per head from the previous week, and up $52 per head compared to last year’s $44 per head losses. Lean carcass prices averaged $88.20 per cwt., up $0.47 per cwt. from the previous week and up $30.77 from last year (35%).

Pork packers saw losses of about $3 per head, or $10 per head less than the previous week and $53 lower than the same week a year ago. Hog slaughter was estimated at 2.223 million head, down 376,000 head from the previous week and down 31,000 head from last year.

Pork packer capacity utilization was estimated at 82.7% compared to 96.7% the previous week and 84.3% last year.

(Note: The Sterling Beef Profit Tracker calculates an average beef cutout value for the week in its estimates for feedyard and packer margins. Other prices in the weekly Profit Tracker also are calculated weekly averages. Feedyard margins are calculated on a cash basis only with no adjustment for risk management practices. The Beef and Pork Profit Trackers are intended only as a benchmark for the average cash costs of feeding cattle and hogs. Sterling Marketing is a private, independent beef and pork consulting firm not associated with any packing company or livestock feeding enterprise.)


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