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Beef Market Update: The tide has turned for wholesale, packing plants need to keep the foot on the gas

By: RealAgriculture Livestock Team

December 3, 2021

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In this week’s Beef Market Update, Anne Wasko of the Gateway Livestock Exchange breaks down the beef markets, including what’s going on in the U.S., whether or not their tides have permanently turned for choice cut-outs and choice select prices, and how western Canadian numbers are faring in comparison.

The U.S. didn’t take a lot of time off from the cattle market following their Thanksgiving last week, says Wasko. Live cattle prices were $2-3 higher this week both in the south and the north, at $140 to $142. Dressed prices were $220/cwt delivered, which is up about $3.

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“That market’s been on a pretty solid, explosive move even in the last eight to ten weeks, but it sure didn’t stop this week,” says Wasko.

Moving onto choice cut-out, the price was down about $7/cwt this week  at $272/cwt, and the choice select spread was  about $14/cwt back. “We continue to gain some ground, cattle prices finally moving up, wholesale prices moving down,” says Wasko, which has been long overdue and typically wholesale prices go down into the the month of December.

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The question now, says Wasko, is how much more juice is left in this cash market between now and Christmas. Is that it for now, or will it take a bit of a breather?

Local prices were lightly tested this week in Western Canada; the dressed basis gained $5/cwt, to $275/cwt, which will be about $2 to $2.50 higher in the live market. Wasko says that it’s a weak basis still for Western Canada, at about -$15.

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“Hopefully with the labour discussions and contract negotiations at High River — that would certainly take some uncertainty out of the market and the move the market,” adds Wasko.

In terms of going into the holiday season, Wasko says it’s not the time for packing plants to be taking the foot off the gas.

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Check out the full conversation with Wasko and Shaun Haney, including on more on Australia’s market, and how drought is playing into their markets, below: