Choice beef cuts selling at a higher premium over Select cuts this summer
Many Americans spend more of their time outdoors during the summer months, and some of that outdoor time is spent attending barbecues or grilling their meals at home. Beef is a popular grilling option for many, but not all grades of beef are equally suitable. USDA meat inspectors provide grades (Prime, Choice, and Select) for U.S. beef that denote quality and suitability for different cooking methods. Prime and Choice meats are most suitable for grilling because of the larger amount of marbling, or fat, that helps keep the meat juicy and tender when cooked. Consumers pay premium prices for Prime and Choice beef, as opposed to Select, which is less expensive. Because outdoor grilling is popular during the summer months, there typically is an increase in sales for Choice beef. The monthly price spread, or premium, for Choice beef relative to Select beef reached a record high of $30.38 per hundredweight for the week ending June 9th and averaged $28.35 for the full month. It is not uncommon for the Choice/Select spread to increase in late spring and early summer, as the share of cattle designated Choice this time of year typically declines at the same time that demand increases, driving up the price of Choice beef. But this year, supplies of Choice beef were ample, suggesting that it was strong domestic demand for Choice beef that helped to propel the spread to record levels in June, rather than limited supply. The data in this chart are drawn from the Livestock & Meat Domestic Data set updated in June 2017.