Sky-high U.S. meat prices will continue, USDA says

(Photo courtesy Canada Beef Inc.)

Washington | Reuters — Prices for many U.S. meats, already at record highs, continued to increase on a combination of drought and disease that have culled herds, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Thursday.

Retail beef and veal prices spiked by 4.2 per cent from July to August, the largest month-on-month increase since the end of 2003, and they have logged a 15 per cent increase over the past year.

Meat prices will likely continue to experience the effects of the Texas/Oklahoma drought on cattle herds and porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) on the pig herd in the immediate future, USDA said, as farmers’ decisions on calving and herd sizes based on current conditions will only kick in after some six to 18 months.

The agency now forecasts beef and veal prices will rise by eight to nine perc ent for the whole of 2014, and pork prices will rise by 7.5 to 8.5 per cent. Price increases in 2015 in both categories are expected to subside to about 3.5 per cent.

The increases in beef and pork will push the overall meat, poultry and fish category, which accounts for about 12.5 per cent of U.S. grocery bills, up by five to six per cent.

Projected overall U.S. food inflation was held at three per cent for 2014, in line with historical norms, and is forecast to subside to a 2.5 per cent pace in 2015, the USDA said.

In its monthly report the agency said fresh fruit prices would rise by 4.5 per cent to 5.5 per cent in 2014, a reduction from the previous forecast of a five to six per cent increase.

The ongoing drought in California has raised concern over rising produce prices, but so far it has not had a discernible impact on national prices for fresh fruits or vegetables, USDA said.

Fresh fruit and vegetable prices fell in August, mostly reflecting the ability of consumers to buy more locally grown produce in the summer.

— Reporting for Reuters by Ros Krasny in Washington, D.C.

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