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Covid-19 impacts beef trends

In the final part of a four-part series examining the US beef industry and markets, Farmers Guardian’s sister company Urner Barry looks at the impact of Covid-19 in the US and the UK.

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Covid-19 impacts beef trends

In the US, the beef market was returning to somewhat more normalised trends, though an air of uncertainty remains.

 

Demand patterns continue to alter, as an initial run on supermarkets was followed by a small lull.

 

Shortly after came the demand shock during the April 17 to May 11 period that was propelled by media reports of a perceived shortage of protein that pushed the second notable panic buying period.

 

During these initial weeks, price gains were large and swift.

 

Prices returned to more normalised ranges along with production levels in the next phase.

 

The June 14 to August 16 period was seasonally consistent with past years for most items as the market dragged through the dog days of summer but started to see interest in certain items like rib eyes, strip loins and tenderloins, which is consistent with US buying for the US public holiday Labour Day, on Monday, September 7.

 

More recently there has been a sense of buyers hedging year-end purchases in the event of potential future outbreaks.

 

This has advanced market prices this week, with the inside round a notable gainer.

 

With consumer purchases still tilted towards the retail segment, key items such as the inside round will benefit.


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Bottlenecks

 

Much of what has occurred in the US has been mirrored on the UK protein market, albeit to varying
degrees.

 

The UK beef market continues to be influenced by pandemic-induced bottlenecks, with a shortage of clean cattle and a decline in imports from South America putting upward pressure on both deadweight cattle and wholesale beef prices.

 

While the loss of carcase value was accelerated during the onset of lockdowns, an uptick in foodservice activity and rising steak demand has improved fortunes.

 

Amid the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out campaign, demand for sirloin, rib eye and fillet cuts has been strong with prices trending upward.

 

However, beef roasts such as silversides, topside and chuck rolls remain poor sellers with white meat preferred as a replacement product.

 

While the Eat Out to Help Out campaign has spurred dine out activity, market participants have cited a potential dip in steak demand from next week when the campaign is no longer active.

 

In contrast, other reports suggest steak demand will remain high with restaurants across the major cities extending discount offers.

About Urner Barry

Urner Barry is a US based agency covering market prices of red meat, poultry, eggs and seafood. The Farmers Guardian sister company is launching a new report on the UK beef market this month.

US beef industry stats

  • There are more than 700,000 beef farms and ranches in the US, with 91 per cent family-owned.
  • All cattle and calves in the US as of July 1, 2020, totalled 103 million head.
  • The number of cattle on feed as of July 1, 2020, totalled 11.44m head.
  • The US produced more than 12.27 billion kg of beef last year.
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