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U.S. beef exports to China resume after 14-year absence

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

In June 2017, the United States began shipping beef to China after a 14-year absence. U.S. beef was banned from China following the discovery of isolated cases of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE)–commonly known as mad cow disease–in the United States and Canada in 2003. Prior to 2003, China was among the top 10 U.S. beef export markets, but still significantly smaller than leading U.S. partners like Japan, Canada, and Mexico. In recent years, China has expanded its global beef imports and ranked as the second largest global beef importer behind the United States in 2016. U.S. beef shipments to China have grown since June and reached almost 2 million pounds in September alone. While 2 million pounds is less than 1 percent of September’s total U.S. beef exports, shipments to China are expected to grow as more U.S. suppliers receive proper USDA verifications to supply this market. This chart is drawn from the ERS Livestock and Meat International Trade Data product updated in December 2017.

U.S. beef exports higher in every month of 2017 compared with a year earlier

Thursday, November 30, 2017

In every month in 2017, U.S. beef exports exceeded the prior year’s exports, according to the latest trade data through September. Year-to-date beef exports through September total just under 2.1 billion pounds, compared with 1.8 billion during the same time in 2016, a 15-percent increase. Much of the growth in U.S. beef exports can be attributed to increased shipments to Japan, which has received 29 percent more beef so far in 2017, compared with 2016. This rise has amounted to more than 140 million pounds of beef. The growth in U.S. beef exports has coincided with stronger domestic beef production and lower prices relative to recent years. An additional factor that influences U.S. trade, is the relative strength of the country’s dollar compared with its competitors. Between January and September 2017, the U.S. dollar depreciated by roughly 8 percent, according to the St. Louis Federal Reserve’s Trade-Weighted U.S. Dollar Index. A depreciating dollar relative to a trading partner makes U.S. goods more attractive because more dollars can be purchased with the same amount of the partner’s currency. This chart appears in the Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook Newsletter, released in November 2017.

U.S. cattle dressed weights are down slightly in 2017, but remain above long term averages

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Seasonality of steer dressed weights are largely determined by biological factors and weather-related impacts on animal growth. Seasonally, steer weights tend to increase from the spring months, then decline from late fall into the early spring months. The long-term trend, which has been marked by sustained growth in dressed weights, is due to improvements in cattle genetics through selective breeding and the implementation of modern production systems. For steers, several factors interact to influence year-over-year changes in carcass weights including: producers’ responses to market prices of outputs and inputs (feed and feeder animals); weights and age at which animals are placed into feedlots; and animals’ biological responses to abnormal weather. Steer weights in 2017 are lower than a year ago, driven by aggressive marketing of slaughter-ready animals in feedlots, especially compared to a year ago. This is due to greater profit margins for retail meat packers than in 2016. Still, steer weights remain above their 10-year average, a period in which 2011-13 corn price averaged more than 6 dollars per bushel. This chart appears in the Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook newsletter released in October 2017.

Deforestation due to agriculture in Brazil has generally declined over time

Monday, May 15, 2017

Increasing global population and demand for food have led to rising agricultural production and demand for land for farming purposes. Expanded agricultural land has often come from tropical deforestation in developing countries that have become major exporters of commodities like beef, soybeans, and palm oil. In Brazil, for example, deforestation is linked most closely with the production of beef in the Amazon basin and the Cerrado region. Historically, cattle account for over 80 percent of deforestation in the Amazon and 88 percent in the Cerrado. At its peak in 1995, beef accounted for 3.75 million hectares of deforestation in Brazil, compared to 0.71 million hectares in 2013. Deforestation due to soybean production has generally remained low, particularly in the Amazon. Soybean production has mostly increased by expanding onto previously cleared cropland or pasture, rather than by contributing directly to deforestation. In more recent years, higher yields and policy changes have contributed to a decline in deforestation rates in Brazil. This chart appears in the ERS report International Trade and Deforestation: Potential Policy Effects via a Global Economic Model, released April 2017.

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

Thursday, September 1, 2016

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

Thursday, September 1, 2016

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.

Wholesale-to-retail price spread increases for U.S. choice beef

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The spread between farm prices and retail prices of U.S. choice beef has been rising in real terms since 2000 because of an increasing spread between wholesale and retail prices. The spread between wholesale and retail choice beef prices averaged 75.5 cents/lb during the 1990s, but averaged 93.7 cents/lb during 2009-13. The ERS price spread calculations standardize the farm, wholesale, and retail product values over time, so the expanding wholesale-to-retail spread suggests rising costs in that segment of the supply chain, rather than changes in product mix or quality at each price point. In contrast, the farm-to-wholesale price spread has tended to decline slightly since 2000. These trends in price spreads may arise from differences in cost inflation in key inputs in the farm-to-wholesale and wholesale-to-retail segments of the supply chain, differences in productivity growth in each segment, and changes in the degree of market competition in each segment. This chart is based on data from the Meat Price Spreads data product.

Grocery store prices for beef, pork, and eggs are up as U.S. supplies decrease

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Retail food-at-home prices in the second quarter of 2014 were 2.3 percent higher than a year ago, as most at-home food categories increased in price. Retail beef and veal prices were up 10.8 percent as the supply of beef is strained by historically low herd sizes. Over the same time period, pork prices increased 11.2 percent, partially the result of the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus, which has reduced litter sizes and increased piglet mortality.? Egg prices are also up, in part due to increasing exports and a strong domestic demand for eggs and egg products. The increases in beef and veal, pork, and egg prices are the largest year-over-year increases since the fourth quarter of 2011. This chart appears in the Food Prices and Spending section of ERS?s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials data product, updated September 10, 2014.? More information on ERS?s food price forecasts can also be found in ERS?s Food Price Outlook data product.

U.S. cattle dressed weights reach record levels

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The average weight of cattle slaughtered in the United States is increasing in 2014, as rising prices for cattle and beef, coupled with declining feed costs, have induced growers to feed cattle for longer periods. The average dressed weight?the weight of the carcass minus ?feet, head, hide, and organs?of U.S. slaughtered cattle has been increasing in recent years, but rose sharply from 799 lbs/head to 822 lbs/head between September 2013 and September 2014. U.S. cattle and beef prices have set a number of successive record highs since mid-2013 because of declining cattle inventories resulting from drought-degraded pasture and forage conditions during 2010-12. ?With improved weather, cow-calf operators appear to be rebuilding herds by retaining heifers for breeding, adding upward pressure to cattle prices. Lower feed prices resulting from record U.S. corn and soybean crops are creating incentives to feed animals to higher weights. Also, as a direct result of placing fewer heifers in feed lots, there is a larger proportion of steers?which typically weigh more than heifers?in the slaughter mix, contributing to heavier average weights. ?Find additional analysis in Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook: November 2014.

U.S. poultry and eggs output has grown more rapidly than dairy and meat animals

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Total U.S. livestock output grew 130 percent from 1948 to 2011, with the poultry and eggs subcategory growing much faster than meat animals (including cattle, hogs, and lamb) and dairy products. In 2011, the real value of total poultry and egg production was more than seven times its level in 1948, with an average annual growth rate exceeding 3 percent. The rapid growth of poultry production is due largely to changes in technology?advances in genetics, feed formulations, housing, and practices?and increased consumer demand. Retail prices of poultry fell in the late 1970?s and 1980?s, relative to beef and pork prices, leading to expanded poultry consumption in that period. Increased domestic consumption and exports were also driven by consumer response to an expanding range of new poultry products, as the industry moved away from a reliance on whole birds and produc?tion shifted to cut-up parts and processed products such as boneless chicken, breaded nuggets/tenders, and chicken sausages. This chart is found in the ERS report, Agricultural Productivity Growth in the United States: Measurement, Trends, and Drivers, July 2015.

Lower ground beef prices reduce cost of home-grilled cheeseburgers by just over 6 percent from a year ago

Thursday, September 1, 2016

If cheeseburgers are on the menu for your July 4 barbecue, they will cost you less this year than last year. Thanks to lower prices for ground beef, bread, and tomatoes, the cost of a home-prepared cheeseburger was 6.3 percent lower in May 2016 compared with May 2015. In May 2016 (latest available prices), the ingredients for a quarter-pound cheeseburger totaled $1.72 per burger, with ground beef making up the largest cost at $0.93 and cheddar cheese accounting for $0.34. This same cheeseburger would have cost $1.83 to prepare in May 2015. Ground beef prices decreased 10.1 percent between May 2015 and May 2016, translating to a $0.10 per quarter-pound savings. Bread and tomato prices also decreased, bread prices fell 5.5 percent and tomato prices 2.6 percent. Cheddar cheese prices increased 1 percent from last May. Lettuce prices, on the other hand, were up 3.2 percent, but due the small piece of lettuce topping the cheeseburger, this translated into an increase of less than a cent per burger. More information on ERS?s food price forecasts can be found in ERS?s Food Price Outlook data product, updated June 24, 2016.

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

Thursday, September 1, 2016

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.

U.S. cattle imports on the rise as farmers rebuild inventories

Thursday, September 1, 2016

U.S. cattle imports have increased from both Canada and Mexico in 2014, totaling 1.413 million head through August. Imports are up 14 percent from Mexico and 12 percent from Canada due to stronger U.S. demand for feeder cattle. U.S producers are seeking to rebuild animal inventories reduced by several years of dry weather and take advantage of the low U.S. feed prices stemming from record 2014 U.S. corn and soybean harvests. U.S. feeder cattle demand is reflected in the sharp increase in the average price for Nebraska feeder steers (7-8 hundredweight [cwt]) from $149.45/cwt during the first three quarters of 2013 to $205.57/cwt during the same period of 2014.? Imports over the summer months, typically the slowest season, were well above last year?s levels, and there are indications that increased shipments continued into September 2014. U.S. cattle imports are now forecast at 2.200 million head in 2014 and 2.225 million head in 2015. Although both Canada and Mexico have relatively low cattle inventories, strong U.S. prices are expected to continue to pull cattle across the border. Find this chart and additional analysis in Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook: October 2014.

Cattle sales shifting from cash sales to formula pricing and other arrangements

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Historically, nearly all livestock were bought and sold in large, public markets where hundreds of buyers and sellers would compete for the best price based on the information that each brings to the market. These cash transactions resulted in prices and pricing information that were freely available and shared widely through public and private sources. Beginning in the mid twentieth century, the industry evolved and became more concentrated and coordinated at all levels. The use of cash markets declined sharply in favor of various forms of price contracts, such as forward contracts, marketing agreements, packer ownership, and formula pricing?where a cash price might be used for reference but premiums or discounts are applied based on a pre-determined formula. In the beef cattle market, the last decade has seen a shift away from cash market sales in favor of formula pricing, which has led to concerns that the cash prices used in those formulas could be unreliable, and that the limited volume of public sales undermines price transparency and market efficiency. The Livestock Mandatory Price Reporting Act was passed in 1999 in response to these and other concerns, and requires all major meatpackers to report the prices they pay for sheep, cattle and hogs, as well as their selling prices for lamb, beef and pork. This chart is from the ERS report, Mandatory Price Reporting, Market Efficiency and Price Discovery in Livestock Markets.

Wholesale beef prices turn sharply lower

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Beef prices typically experience a seasonal decline at the end of summer, but the decline in prices since August this year has been particularly steep, and the combination of abundant supplies and lower demand suggests cattle and beef prices could continue to decline. Cattle are remaining on feed longer and are currently being marketed at record-high weights, resulting in increased beef production this year despite the historically small cattle supplies. At the same time, beef demand is in the midst of its seasonal decline as attention shifts from grilling to roasting items. As a result, wholesale beef prices have declined steadily since late August, while the price premium that Choice beef typically receives over the Select grade is diminishing, reflecting current strong supplies of these higher graded cuts relative to previous periods.? Adding to the market pressures, beef exports are down from this time last year due to a strengthening U.S. dollar and softening demand for U.S. beef, resulting in larger-than-anticipated volumes to be consumed in the domestic market and the expectation for continued downward pressure on prices in the near term. This chart is from the October Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry report.

India emerges as major beef exporter

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Since the late 2000s, India?s exports of beef?specifically water buffalo meat, also known as carabeef?have expanded rapidly, with India moving just ahead of Brazil to become the world?s largest exporter in 2014. India?s beef exports during the period have grown at an annual rate of about 12 percent, rising from an average volume of 0.31 million metric tons during 1999-2001 to an estimated 1.95 million during 2013-15. India?s robust export growth contributed to the expansion of world beef trade during this period and also increased the country?s share of the volume of shipments by major world beef exporters from just 5 percent during 1999-2001 to about 20 percent during 2013-15. The U.S. market share fluctuated during this period but declined from an average of 18 percent during 1999-2001 to 12 percent during 2013-15. This chart is from the ERS report, From Where the Buffalo Roam: India?s Beef Exports, released June 22, 2016.

Retail beef prices and farmers' share up in 2011

Thursday, September 1, 2016

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.

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

Thursday, September 1, 2016

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.?

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

Thursday, September 1, 2016

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.

Per capita availability of chicken higher than that of beef for a third year

Thursday, September 1, 2016

According to ERS's 2012 food availability data, the per capita supply of chicken available to eat in the United States continues to outpace that of beef. In 2012, 56.6 pounds of chicken per person on a boneless, edible basis were available for Americans to eat, compared to 54.5 pounds of beef. Although down from its peak of 60.9 pounds per person in 2006, chicken availability has been higher than that of beef for the past three years. Chicken began its upward climb in the 1940s, overtaking pork in 1996 as the second-most-consumed meat and overtaking beef for the No. 1 spot in 2010. Pork availability, which fluctuated between 49.9 and 46.6 pounds per person over the 1981 to 2009 period, dropped to 42.6 pounds per person in 2012. This chart is from the Summary Findings in ERS?s data product, the Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System.

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