Meat trade posts strong summer

WINNIPEG — As the end of summer draws near, so does the end of the barbecue season, which means less demand for beef and pork products after a summer of significantly higher prices, according to industry participants.

“I think summer 2014 is going to go down as extraordinary from a (beef) price perspective clear across the board, and I guess the same would hold true for pork as well,” said Anne Wasko, a marketing analyst at Gateway Livestock Group of Companies.

“The demand has been much better than any of us have anticipated, especially given these record high prices.”

Wasko said it is important to note that both beef and pork have been in demand.

“All prices made record highs back in the month of July. If you’re going to pick a date, it was right near the end of July where everything from retail to wholesale to feedlot prices to feeder cattle and calf prices all saw record highs,” said Wasko.

“Now today, some of those prices are settling back at both the wholesale and feedlot, so that would be packer and feedlot levels.”

Retail prices took a little longer to reach their highs in the summer, which means they’ll take slightly longer to come back down off their highs, Wasko said.

“They’re (also) going to be much slower to come down because supplies are still going to be tight for quite some time on the beef side of the equation, so don’t anticipate a great deal of change there.… But markets today are off a little bit from where we were a month ago.”

The Labour Day weekend, seen as the end of the grilling season, was expected to benefit retailers.

“It’s been an amazing summer for beef demand, whether it’s from the hamburger or meat trim grind cuts or all the way to the higher-end products,” she said.

“Everything has certainly seen increased demand and price levels compared to what we’ve ever seen before.”

The same holds true for Canadian pork, which will be starting to decline after an exceptionally high summer.

“Our prices for most of the year have been well above year ago prices, so we’ve had a very strong July,” said Brad Marceniuk, a livestock economist with the Saskatchewan government.

“So we can expect prices to come down, but yeah, typically we do see some weakness this time of year. Part of that has to do with supply, (which) typically goes up, and the amount of hogs that come to market will typically increase this time of year, also.”

Pork and hog prices were pushed higher this summer because of the shortage in supplies that resulted from the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, but Marceniuk said the disease is now making less of an impact on supplies and prices.

“Last winter there were more cases and so supplies were declining for the summer months and so summer pricing did go up quite a bit,” said Marceniuk.

“And typically over the summer it sounds like the number of cases was really reduced and there wasn’t much at all and so we’re probably going to see a supply of hogs going to market this fall to go up a bit from where we were.”

He said PED seems to thrive better in cold weather.

“So when the heat came on in the summer, I think the disease was reduced and the number of cases and pigs that died was reduced,” he said.

“So now the question is will the disease pick up again this fall and will it cause supplies to decline later on in the year?

“But overall, the thing that happens in fall time is the supply typically increases a little bit, so we see prices do come down a little bit from our summer highs.… It’s just that the last six months have been above normal because of PED, so it’s a little harder to know where prices will go.”

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