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Seasonal dips in ground beef prices lower the cost of Memorial Day burgers

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Memorial Day weekend kicks off the barbecue season for many Americans, and a grilled burger topped with cheese is a holiday staple. Using price data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ERS calculated the average national cost of a home-cooked cheeseburger. The cost was found to vary seasonally, usually decreasing in February, May, and June while reaching annual peaks in November or December. Most of the seasonal variation is due to the changes in beef prices. The April 2013 cost of $2.07 for a home-prepared cheeseburger is up 61 percent since 2000, while overall food-at-home prices have increased 41 percent in that time. Much of that difference is due to the strong beef price inflation of recent years resulting from low cattle inventories and high feed prices. More information on food price changes and forecasts can be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product.

Farm sector exposure to drought worsened during the summer of 2012

Thursday, April 4, 2013

As of mid-August 2012, 43 percent of farms in the United States were experiencing severe or greater levels of drought and another 17 percent were facing moderate levels of drought (for a description of severity levels, see A striking aspect of the 2012 drought was how the drought rapidly increased in severity in early July, during a critical time of crop development for corn and other commodities. The chart shows the progression from mid-June to mid-August of severe or greater drought within the agricultural sector. While drought conditions eased some during early September, for most crop production, exposure to drought during June-August determined the drought’s impact on agricultural production. From mid-June to mid-August, the share of farms under severe or greater drought increased from 16 to 43 percent of all farms. Total cropland under severe or greater drought increased from 20 to 57 percent, while total value of crops exposed increased from 16 to 50 percent. As of mid-July, areas with over half of the value of cattle production were already exposed to severe drought; by mid-August, almost two-thirds were exposed. This chart is based on the table found in U.S. Drought 2012: Farm and Food Impacts on the ERS website, updated March 2013.

Japanese rule change may lead to further rebound in imports of U.S beef

Monday, April 1, 2013

Effective February 1, 2013, Japan has permitted imports of beef from all U.S. cattle less than 30 months of age, a decision that removes most of the restrictions imposed on imports of U.S. beef at the end of 2003. In late 2003, Japan banned U.S. beef in reaction to the discovery of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in the United States. In 2005, Japan reopened its market to U.S. beef imports from cattle slaughtered at less than 21 months of age. However, U.S. beef exports to Japan, as well as Japanese beef consumption, have not recovered to the levels they reached in 2003 and earlier. The latest action is expected to lead to a further rebound in the volume of U.S. beef and byproducts exported to Japan; to allow somewhat lower prices in Japan for U.S. beef; and to raise the value of beef carcasses in the United States. This chart appears in Japan Announces New Rules for Imports of U.S. Beef.

U.S. net beef exports narrow with tight domestic supplies

Friday, March 8, 2013

The United States exported 2.45 billion pounds of beef in 2012 (in carcass weight equivalents), 12 percent below the record 2.78 billion pounds exported in 2011. The decline interrupted the steady recovery of U.S. beef exports after the discovery of a U.S. case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in 2003 led to a sharp drop in U.S. shipments. While global export demand for U.S. beef remained robust, the decline in 2012 occurred primarily because tightening domestic cattle inventories reduced exportable supplies. U.S. beef imports have trended downward since 2003, when Canada reported the discovery of BSE. Canadian beef imports resumed quickly thereafter on a restricted basis, but imports from Australia and New Zealand were limited in subsequent years by tight supplies and domestic herd rebuilding. In 2012, U.S. beef imports were 8 percent higher, driven by tightening U.S. supplies and strong demand. Increased U.S. imports were mostly from Oceania, as herd rebuilding in the region allowed more beef to be exported to the United States. This chart appears on the ERS Cattle and Beef topic page.

Midwest drought's impacts seen in fourth quarter 2012 food prices

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

In the final three months of 2012, higher field corn prices resulting from the Midwest drought began to show up on supermarket shelves. From October to December, while the all-items CPI fell 0.8 percent and overall food-at-home prices increased only 0.2 percent, prices rose for most foods that rely heavily on corn-based animal feed—beef, pork, poultry, other meats, eggs, and dairy products. Milk prices rose nearly 3 percent while egg prices increased 1.7 percent. Prices for beef, poultry, and other meats all rose by about 0.5 percent. The only animal-based category defying this trend is pork, where rising inventories and falling exports have caused retail prices to drop from historically high levels in early 2012. ERS forecasts prices for all meat and animal-based products to increase steadily through the first half of 2013. More information on food price changes and forecasts can be found in the Food Price Outlook data product, updated January 2013.

Retail prices of beef, fats and oils, and poultry up the most in 2012

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Overall food-at-home prices rose 2.6 percent in 2012, but this masked a great deal of variation across food categories. For the second consecutive year, beef and fats and oils showed the biggest percentage increases. Beef prices increased due to record low cattle inventories, while surging soybean prices pushed up prices for fats and oils. Poultry prices also increased substantially in 2012, due to a shift in demand away from high-priced beef and pork coupled with higher costs for broiler feed resulting from the Midwest drought. Pork prices, which saw major inflation in 2011, were flat in 2012 as wholesale prices fell due to rising hog inventories and falling exports. Vegetable prices fell 5.1 percent in 2012 as the unusually warm weather led to bumper crops for lettuce, tomatoes, and other vegetables, in sharp contrast to the poor harvests and high vegetable prices of 2011. More information on food price changes and forecasts can be found in the Food Price Outlook data product, updated January 24, 2013.

Livestock from foreign sources contribute to total U.S. meat supplies

Thursday, November 29, 2012

While it is relatively easy to track U.S. meat and livestock imports, it is more difficult to estimate the amount of meat produced in the United States from animals that originated abroad. Foreign-born cattle accounted for an average of 8.1 percent of total monthly U.S. beef production over the last 13 years. When that amount is added to the annual average of 2.9 billion pounds of beef and veal imported from all foreign sources, almost 16 percent of annual U.S. beef and veal supplies is estimated to originate abroad. From 1995 through 2008, Canadian hogs contributed about 93 million pounds per year to U.S. pork supplies. When this amount is combined with the 895 million pounds of pork imported by the U.S. each year, foreign sources are estimated to account for about 8.4 percent of total U.S. pork supplies. This chart appears in "How Much U.S. Meat Comes From Foreign Sources?" in the September 2012 issue of ERS's Amber Waves magazine.

U.S. beef imports from Mexico doubled in each of the last 2 years

Friday, November 9, 2012

Mexico has historically been a top export market for U.S. beef, but in 2003, it emerged as an important source of beef imports for the United States. In 2011, Mexico exported 59,000 metric tons of beef to the U.S., making it the fourth largest source of U.S. beef imports. The volume of boneless, fresh, or frozen meat cuts exported from Mexico to the U.S. increased by nearly 68 percent from 2010 to 2011, while the volume of exports of Mexican bone-in beef cuts increased by nearly 59 percent. The increase in exports of Mexican beef to the U.S. is partly due to an increase in the number of TIF (Tipo Inspeccion Federal) plants inspected by Mexico's Federal Government. Such plants must meet standards similar to those in the U.S. and must inspect meat that is moved across State borders in Mexico or exported to the U.S. In the last 60 years, the number of operational TIF establishments increased from 15 to 365 across 27 States in Mexico and has grown rapidly in the last few years. This chart appears in "Mexico Emerges as an Exporter of Beef to the United States" in the September 2012 issue of ERS's Amber Waves magazine.

Nearly all U.S. cattle imports originate from Canada and Mexico

Friday, September 21, 2012

The United States imports significantly greater numbers of cattle than it exports. U.S. cattle imports contribute an estimated monthly average of 8.1 percent of production to the U.S. beef supply. Because of concerns with animal health issues in originating countries, the United States restricts cattle imports from most countries. Cattle imports to the United States originate, almost exclusively, from Mexico and Canada because of these countries geographic proximity to U.S. markets and the complementarity of their cattle and beef sectors to that of the United States. Cattle imported from Mexico tend to be lighter-weight cattle intended for U.S. stocker or feeder operations, while at least three-fourths of cattle imports from Canada are destined for immediate slaughter. Cattle imports from Mexico have increased year-over-year since 2008, while imports from Canada have trended downward. Total cattle imports have also trended downward since 2007 due to a declining total North American cattle herd. The data for this chart come from ERS's Livestock and Meat International Trade Data.

Beef exports reached record high in 2011

Monday, February 27, 2012

U.S. beef exports posted strong gains in 2011. Total beef exports were 2.79 billion pounds, 21 percent higher than the previous year's total. The strongest gains were to Russia (up 85 percent) South Korea (37 percent), Japan (30 percent), Canada (27 percent), and Hong Kong (21 percent). Canada, Mexico, Japan, and Korea were the top four export destinations for U.S. beef. Together, these countries imported 65 percent of total U.S. beef exports. U.S. beef exports for 2012 are forecast to decline slightly, to 2.76 billion pounds. This chart is found in Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook, LDP-M-212, February 2012.

Retail beef prices and farmers' share up in 2011

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Retail prices for Choice beef and for all fresh beef set records in December 2011. For the fourth month in a row, the Choice price set a new nominal high, reaching $5.02/lb in December, and an annual average $4.83/lb for 2011. Farmers' share (net farm value divided by retail value) was 49.9% in 2011; the last time it was this high was in 1994 when it was 51%. The data for this chart are found in the ERS data product Meat Price Spreads, published January 19, 2012, on the ERS website.

Beef, fats and oils, and eggs led food price increase in 2011

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Grocery store food prices were up 4.8 percent in 2011, as food inflation picked up again for the first time since 2008. 2011's higher food-at-home price inflation reflected higher energy and commodity prices, combined with a weaker U.S. dollar that boosted international demand for U.S. foods. Specific food categories posted especially large increases: beef up 10.2 percent, fats and oils up 9.3 percent, and eggs up 9.2 percent. Beef prices were up in 2011 due to higher input costs, low inventories, and strong international demand. Drought conditions throughout the South contributed to higher 2011 egg prices, while the jump in prices for fats and oils was due in large part to surging soybean prices. More information on ERS's analysis and forecasts of food price inflation can be found in the Food Prices, Expenditures and Costs topic on the ERS website.

U.S. beef imports from Mexico continue to be strong

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

U.S. beef imports from Mexico have at least doubled in each of the last 2 years, continuing an upward trend that began in 2003. Beef imports from Mexico in 2010 totaled 107 million pounds, making Mexico the fifth largest exporter of beef to the United States. Through November 2011, imports of beef from Mexico increased by 46 percent over the same period in 2010. There are two reasons for the increasing exports of Mexican beef to the United States: (1) an increase in the number of Mexican slaughter plants meeting inspection standards similar to those in the United States, and (2) an increase in production of grain-fed beef in Mexico, the quality of beef that most often meets the tastes and preferences of U.S. consumers. This chart comes from the Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook, LDP-M-211, released January 19, 2012.

U.S. cattle numbers have declined while beef production has risen

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The U.S. cattle and calves inventory as of January 1, 2011 was the lowest since 1958. When evaluated on a year-over-year basis, the inventory has continued to decline through 2011, with declines fueled by drought in the Southern Plains and Southeastern United States. Beef production, however, has trended upward over the past several decades. Higher slaughter weights and efficiency gains have resulted in increasing beef production even as cattle inventories have declined. However, beef production too is expected to decline in 2012. This chart appeared in the June 2011 issue of Amber Waves magazine.

U.S. beef production and exports

Monday, July 11, 2011

As a percent of production, U.S. beef exports are expected to surpass levels set in previous years. In 2011, U.S. domestic production is forecast at nearly 26.3 billion pounds. Even at higher year-over-year production levels in 2011, U.S. beef exports are expected to be about 9.9 percent of production this year. U.S. beef exports are forecast at 2.52 billion pounds in 2012. This graphic comes from the Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook, LDP-M-204, June 15, 2011. Older farmers' 28-percent share of all farms includes the 18 percent of farmers classified as older who operate retirement or residential/lifestyle farms. Since these farmers produce only 2 percent of U.S. output, their impact on U.S. agriculture as they leave farming entirely should be minimal. Their 14-percent share of assets does not contribute substantially to their own production, although they may rent land to other operators. About 22 percent of the land they own is rented out, and another 13 percent is enrolled in land retirement programs. Most production by older farmers occurs on large-scale (annual sales of $250,000 or more) farms and nonfamily farms. Older operators on these farms account for 12 percent of U.S. production but only 2 percent of farms and 6 percent of assets. However, some of these farms are multiple-generation operations, with at least 20 years' difference between the ages of the oldest and youngest operators. The large-scale and nonfamily farms with no apparent replacement operator account for 4 percent of all farm assets, which would have to be absorbed by other operations as the current operators exit. This chart appeared in the ERS report, Structure and Finances of U.S. Farms: Family Farm Report, 2010 Edition, EIB-66, July 2010.

Expanding the ethanol industry may influence long-term trends in the livestock industry

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Access to distiller's wet grains (a derivative of ethanol processing used as a feed supplement for beef and dairy cattle) could spur increased concentrations of beef and dairy herds near ethanol processing facilities. Spreading manure on energy feedstock crops and potential use of animal waste for onsite power generation provide additional incentives for herd expansion near processing facilities. Ethanol's reliance on corn as the primary feedstock and the high concentration of ethanol processing facilities in the Corn Belt could slow or reverse the recent shift in animal concentrations from the Midwest. In fact, current and planned ethanol production capacities appear to correlate strongly with the presence of livestock and, in particular, with livestock's capacity for distiller's grain consumption. This map is from the ERS research report, Ethanol and a Changing Agricultural Landscape, ERR-86, November 2009.

Cattle exported from Mexico to the United States, 1989-2009

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cattle production provides vital economic activity for the large expanse of nonarable land in Mexico, and the United States is the primary export market. Cattle raised for export in Mexico represent, on average, more than half of all U.S. cattle imports. In 12 of the years between 1989 and 2009, Mexico exported over a million head of cattle, mostly steers and heifers for feeding, to the United States. In 1995, large numbers of cattle were exported from Mexico due to drought conditions. Over half of Mexican cattle imports to the United States are lightweight feeder cattle (less than 400 pounds). Exports of Mexican cattle to the United States have declined in recent years due to a decreased cattle inventory in that country. This chart originally appeared in Cow-Calf Beef Production in Mexico, LDP-M-196-01, November 2010.