Cattle prices down, price of beef remains high

By Chad Klassen
May 10, 2016 - 5:09pm Updated: May 10, 2016 - 5:45pm

KAMLOOPS — It took Canadian ranchers more than a decade to see prices hit record highs last year, but already the boom market for beef is fading. 

The cattle industry has experienced a drop in prices over the last few months, down by as much as 40 per cent, according to local ranchers in the Thompson. Prices were close to $3 a pound for a steer at this time last year, but now they're sitting at about $1.80.

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"There are so many factors within that pricing, between where commodity markets are, demand, and just available cash out there," says General Manager of the B.C. Cattlemen's Association Kevin Boone. "We know there's certainly issues in the country around it, so we'll just ride the storm."

While cattle stocks in Canada remain low, stocks in the U.S. are up by as much as 3%. That high supply is helping to drive prices down. 

"Although cattle numbers are down, they are increasing in the States, and we've made carcass weights quite a bit heavier, so compensating for less number, we've produced more beef," says local cattle buyer Mark Canart.

But lower cattle prices haven't necessarily translated into low beef prices at the store. Steaks remain the same price as last year.

"Grilling cuts unfortunately, they've gone up, then come back down a little. We're talking maybe 50 to 70 cents a week. Nothing really significant," says Assistant Manager at Summit Gourmet Meats Mike Jordans. "Talking to suppliers, the grilling cuts are going to hold to about what they're at now, or possibly they could go up."

The only thing down in price is ground beef, down by about 10%. 

But with the nicer barbequing weather, demand is up. Ribeyes are going for $24.79 a pound at Summit Gourmet Meats, translating to about $20 a steak. 

"People are becoming more used to the beef of price. They've started to accept it a little more," says Jordans. "They might be eating less, but they're willing to spend the money on it when the time comes, when they're wanting a good steak for the barbeque."

For cattle producers, who are facing some losses when selling, prices are expected to rebound soon. 

"At the end of the day, we've always got demand, and we're seeing new markets open up, and so they will regain," says Boone. "It's just a matter of, right now, we're seeing a bunch of combinations. The dollar is offsetting some of it, or it could be much worse."

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