Meat Prices Downright Rotten

Market anxiety spilled into beef and pork prices this week, sending futures contracts sharply lower. Meat demand is reactive to overall economic concerns; when people have extra money, they’re more likely to buy steaks, but in hard times, they’re more likely to buy ground beef or switch to cheaper protein sources entirely.

Worse yet, as events, businesses, and schools close in an effort to contain the coronavirus spread, people will be less likely to eat out and will be preparing more meals at home, another factor that may reduce meat demand.

On the concerns of widespread shutdowns in the United States that increased rapidly on Thursday and Friday, cattle and hog futures fell the exchange-maximum “limit down” price both days. Selling was widespread, suggesting that supplies could outpace demand for future months.

As of midday Friday, April cattle futures were at 95.57 cents per pound, and April hogs were at 56.37 cents per pound, both “locked” at the limit down price of -4.5 cents on the day.