US processing pressures push beef prices higher


·         US domestic beef supply hit hard by Covid-19 and now the JBS shutdown, boosting imported beef prices.

·         Summer barbequing season sees beef demand soar in the US as competition for imported beef heats up.

·         90CL price has climbed 16 per cent since the beginning of March, and 20 per cent since the start of the year.


By Jamie-Lee Oldfield, Mecardo (AU)

June 8, 2021


Beef processing in the US is under pressure as demand outstrips supply, pushing the 90CL price more than 100ȼ/kg higher since Easter. Labour shortages, import conditions and a cyber-attack on processor JBS have led to low volumes of beef on hand in the US, while the seasonal summer increase and foodservice resurgence has meant demand is booming.


US wholesale ground beef prices have risen significantly since March, according to the Steiner Group, as restaurant performance in the country reaches record highs with more and more of the population vaccinated and ready to enjoy post-pandemic freedom. Steiner reports the USDA quoting 73CL coarse ground beef up 90 per cent on mid-March and 81CL ground beef 84 per cent higher in that period. The latest choice cut price data out of the US shows the wholesale value at 421.5 cents a pound, up 90ȼ /lb since January.


Australia’s 90CL indicator (frozen lean meant to the US), which lost ground for most of the second half of 2020, is now back on-par with this time last year, at 761ȼ/kg, having climbed 16 per cent since the beginning of March. The price for imported 90CL frozen beef in the US was 7 per cent higher than domestic fresh 90CL product in April.


Cattle processing has ingrained labour issues across the globe, but the impact of Covid-19 was felt by particularly hard by processors in the US. Reports on infection rates estimate between 6 and 8 per cent of all Covid-19 infections in the US (up to July 2020) came from within the meat processing industry (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America). To put this into population perspective, there were 16,000 meat workers infected in the US by May 2020.


Supply was further restricted by the cyber-attack on JBS last week...


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