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Plenty of meat available for Fourth of July

Retail meat sales continue to see double-digit gains each week.

In anticipation of Fourth of July demand, estimated beef production for the week ending June 27 was 562.3 million lb., up 5.3% year over year. This was based on estimated weekly slaughter of 680,000 head, a 1.5% increase from year-ago levels. It also included an estimated Saturday slaughter of 82,000 head, which was 39% higher year over year.

Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist, said the large Saturday slaughter was scheduled for last week since the holiday falls on Saturday this week.

He said the actual slaughter and beef production data for the week ending June 13, confirmed that beef production exceeded year-ago production levels by 0.7%, the first year-over-year weekly beef production increase since the first week of April.

“After the disappointing shortages and high beef prices during Memorial Day, the improved beef situation for this grilling holiday is a great relief,” Peel noted. “Grocery stores should be well stocked in time for July 4, and retail prices are adjusting down rapidly.”

He said supplies for individual stores may depend on their particular supply arrangements.

Meanwhile, retail price adjustments are following rapid decreases in wholesale beef prices, Peel relayed.

“Choice boxed beef prices increased from a pre-COVID-19 level of $208.14/cwt. on March 13 to a daily peak of $475.39/cwt. on April 12 and back to $207.17/cwt. [on] June 26,” he said.

Other meat is plentiful, as well, according to Peel.

This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said consumers should be able to find just about any cut of pork they want for grilling but added that it may come with a higher purchase price, even for pre-holiday specials.

USDA livestock analyst Shayle Shagam said pork production during the first two weeks of June was 2% higher than last year, but retailers had to make purchases for the Fourth of July holiday in May, when prices were higher.

Astounding retail meat sales

Retail meat sales during the week leading up to Father’s Day were astounding, according to Anne-Marie Roerink, president of 210 Analytics LLC.

“The weeks leading up to the 2020 Father’s Day week were plagued with supply chain tightness and purchasing limits. However, the week of Father’s Day, the meat department had much improved its in-stock position -- the widest assortment seen in weeks -- and purchase limitations were more the exception than the rule,” she noted.

Despite supply improvements, Roerink said prices remained highly elevated, and that was the big unknown relative to the success of Father’s Day 2020. The second unknown, she said, was consumer engagement with foodservice, with restaurants in most parts of the country reopened, albeit with social distancing measures in place.

Even with those two factors, Father’s Day meat sales were much higher than the prior year, with a 31.9% sales gains for the week of June 21. Roerink said this marked the 15th week of double-digit gains since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Much like Mother’s Day and Memorial Day, this shows a disproportionate bump for retail meat sales for the spring and summer holidays thus far,” she said.

Volume demand also saw a robust rebound, jumping 13.5% ahead of the same week last year, data showed. Roerink said this was the highest volume gain since the second week of May. Despite this increase, the gap between dollar gains and volume growth set a new record, at 18.4 percentage points.

“In part, Father’s Day spending may have driven the purchase of higher-end items, as evidenced by the high dollar share of beef, but above all, prices remained highly elevated from the year prior,” she said.

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