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U.S. Beef Prices Increase 4 Percent from January to February - Washington Report

The average price for choice beef increased four percent from January to February to a record 5.58 per pound, according to University of Missouri Agriculture Economist Scott Brown, and signs point to continued increases in beef prices. “When you look at beef production, we’re likely to be down four percent this year,” said Brown.  “I think we’ve gotten to the point where we’re going to be critically low in terms of beef supplies in 2014.”

Lower production is a main factor; however, in spite of higher prices, demand remains strong in the United States as well as overseas.   “Places like China could potentially really drive beef prices higher for us over the next year or two if they decide that they have an appetite for more U.S. beef products,” Brown said.

Pork prices are about 8-cents per pound off of record levels, but, according to Brown, it will not take much to close that gap.  The porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) that has impacted hog herds in 27 states does not pose a threat to human health; however, PEDV is reducing supplies, driving hog prices to new records.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported that beef prices in February recorded their biggest monthly gain in a decade  even as overall inflation at the consumer level was tame.  Beef and veal prices climbed 4 percent in the Consumer Price Index, representing the largest increase since 2003.  The overall food index rose o.4 percent in February, the largest increase since September 2011.  The index for meat, poultry, fish, and eggs rose 1.2 percent.