Beef prices at record highs as cold weather hits cattle herds

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The price of choice-grade U.S. beef at wholesale has set a new record as already tight supplies were further squeezed by harsh weather that reduced the number of cattle coming to market in parts of the country.

The wholesale price, or cutout, for choice beef on Thursday hit $212.05 per hundredweight (cwt), eclipsing the record of $211.37 last May, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Retail beef prices in November climbed to $5.41 per pound, topping the $5.36 October record, according to monthly data compiled by USDA that will be updated on Jan. 16.

“Tight beef supplies is the underlying principal factor,” said University of Missouri livestock economist Ron Plain.

Packers hiked the price of beef it sells to grocers and restaurants after last week paying up to $138 per cwt for slaughter-ready cattle in the Plains—also a record high, he said.

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