If you look at retail meat prices for November as reported by USDA’s Economic Research Service, the broad takeaway shows record beef prices with choice cuts hitting $5.409 per retail pound.

The average retail price of pork fell slightly (3.3 cents per pound) from October’s record high of $3.809 per pound to average $3.776 per retail pound in November. That’s down from the record level, but still up 8.6% from 2012.

“While nominal meat prices are clearly at or near record highs, such is not the case for deflated prices,” reports Steve Meyer and Len Steiner in today’s Daily Livestock Report (www.dailylivestockreport.com).

The economists explain that real prices are the basis for demand index and real per capita expenditure calculations and represent prices in constant (in this case 2000-2002) dollars.

 

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“Beef prices are back to the levels of the early 1980s when beef demand was under assault over concerns about fat and cholesterol content. Real pork prices are back to the levels of the early 1990s,” they write.

While the real prices of beef and pork are just getting back to the levels of 20 and 30 years ago, real per capita disposable income has been 89% higher than in 1982 and 55% higher than in 1990.

The bottom line is that consumers have much higher incomes while the prices of beef and pork are the same, providing much more money to purchase luxury items such as flat screen televisions and smartphones.    

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