US boneless beef stocks drop in February

24 March 2016

At the end of February – for the first time since November 2014 – stocks of boneless beef in US cold stores were lower than year-ago levels, according to the latest USDA Cold Storage report. The decline was only very minor (less than 1%), but it suggests that beef end-users are making headway into what are historically large beef stocks. Movements over the next six months will be important to monitor – lower volumes of imported beef are expected relative to the last two years, but US cattle slaughter is forecast higher, which will be an offsetting factor.

The Steiner Consulting Group monitors where the main changes in cold storage inventories have taken place. Unfortunately boneless beef is not broken into various categories, but the drop in beef stores is most likely the result of a combination of a decline in imports and end-users reacting to the spike in 50CL beef trim since the beginning of February. This has encouraged the drawdown of their cheaper fat trim in storage. There is, however, an expectation that US cattle slaughter will increase over the next few months, with good numbers of market-ready cattle in feedlots, which could bring more fat trim onto the market and into the storage system.

The other positive from the recent report is that while US meat production (across the three major proteins – beef, pork and poultry) has been increasing in 2016, meat in storage has not been growing at the same rate. This indicates more meat protein is being consumed, and the demand situation is relatively strong.

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