Business Insights

February 2019 Market Outlook

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General comments

The cold weather in the north continues to dominate the news. The difficult task is interpreting the impact on cattle both in the short term and the longer term affects. Mud will go away as the pens dry but severe cold takes a toll that will be felt into the summer. In their last published report before the shutdown, the USDA reported carcass weights down 10 pounds from a year ago week ended December 15, leaving everyone wondering just how low carcass weights will go in 2019. Certainly, taking out the 2017 steer carcass weight low of 832 pounds no longer seems a long-shot. Smaller supplies will likely support beef prices. Boxed beef keeps slowly climbing with no talk yet of a top, though seasonally a pull-back typically happens in February.

Rib prices are at the upper end of where they usually trade this time of year. Briskets are higher than a year ago, but may not see relief as St. Patrick’s Day is around the corner. Rounds provide a great opportunity as prices remain relatively low and supplies are finding a home. Tenderloins are near the top end of their historical range for February. Thin meats are getting price support from lower production. Ground beef prices are edging higher as less-than-expected production and lighter cattle (with less fat) are shrinking the supply of 50% trimmings.


Top Butts: Prices were higher this week following last week’s decline. Current prices are well above seasonally average, and Choice prices are higher than year-ago while Select values are in-line with year-ago. Short Term: Steady to firm.

Strips: The market was steady with a stronger undertone this week. Choice is higher than year-ago prices but remain below seasonally average while Select prices are above both year-ago and seasonally average. Seasonal price trends indicate that the market may firm in the coming weeks. Short Term: Steady to firm pricing.

Tenderloins: Tenderloin prices trended lower this week for both Choice and Select. Unsurprisingly, current prices remain above year-ago and seasonally average prices, but the market is expected to hold steady. Short Term: Steady pricing.

Tri-Tips: Prices trended upward this week. Prices continue tracking upward seasonal price trends – albeit Choice prices remain higher than seasonally average while Select values rest just below seasonally average. Short Term: Steady to firm pricing.


Ribeyes: Ribeyes gradually moved higher as the week progressed. Current prices are notably higher than year-ago and seasonally average pricing, and prices have tracked upward seasonal trends through the first month of the year. Short Term: Firm pricing.


Chuck Rolls: Prices gave way and adjusted lower after holding steady over the last couple weeks. Current prices are lower than year-ago and seasonally average pricing, and will likely trend lower in the near term. Short Term: Steady to lower pricing.

Teres Majors: The market for teres majors was steady with a weaker undertone this week. Consequently, prices fell below year-ago pricing but remain slightly higher than seasonally average. The market should trend higher in the near term. Short Term: Steady to firm pricing.

Briskets: The market converged this week with Choice prices moving lower and Select prices rising. Current prices are above a year-ago and the seasonal average, but the market will likely trend lower until St. Patrick’s Day procurement begins. Short Term: Steady pricing.

Thin meats

Ball Tips: Prices were steady with a firm undertone. While both Choice and Select pricing remain below seasonally average, the market is expected to firm throughout the month of February. Short Term: Steady to firm pricing.

Flap Meat: Choice prices rallied while Select values were mostly unchanged. Prices have tracked seasonal uptrends throughout the month of January, and current prices are much higher than year-ago and seasonal average pricing. Short Term: Firm pricing.

Skirt Meat: Outside skirt prices were higher, while Inside skirt prices were unchanged. Unfortunately, current prices are higher than seasonally average and the market will likely continue to firm in February. Short Term: Steady to firm pricing.

Flank: The flank market rallied this week with both grades moving higher. Climbing prices are not unusual for this time of year, and current prices mirror seasonal averages for both Choice and select. Short Term: Steady to firm pricing.


Peeled Knuckles: Choice prices declined while Selects rallied. Prices remain well below seasonally average for Choice and Select peeled knuckles, and the market is expected to hold mostly steady. Short Term: Steady pricing.

Inside Rounds: The market for inside rounds opened higher this week, but adjusted lower as the week progressed. Current prices moved above year-ago pricing, but remain lower than seasonally average. Short Term: Steady pricing.

Bottom Round Flats: Prices held steady this week for both grades of bottom round flats. Bottom round flats present a great buying opportunity with current prices lower than year-ago prices and significantly lower than seasonally average pricing. Short Term: Steady to lower pricing.

Eye of Rounds: Choice prices trended higher while Select prices faltered. Prices typically begin trending downward heading into February, and current prices remain below seasonally average. Short Term: Steady to lower pricing.


Ground Chuck: Prices moved higher this week after falling last week. Current prices are below year-ago and seasonally average pricing, and the market usually begins to decline in February. Short Term: Steady to lower pricing.

81/19 Beef Grind: Prices were higher this week, but as with ground chuck prices will likely soften in February. Current prices mirror year ago levels. Short Term: Steady to lower pricing.


General comments

Although the USDA has not updated their weekly egg set numbers in six weeks, a case can be made that egg sets and chick placements will be up 1-2% in the upcoming production levels. This is due to public announcements about new plant openings. Ready-to-cook production for the week of January 19th was up 12% y/y. That being said, consumer demand for poultry has resurfaced in the past 6-8 weeks.


Whole Bird and WOG prices continued soft this week. Falling prices are partially due to the strength of the markets observed in December and the winter holidays. Expectations are for the market to stabilize in the near term. Short Term: Steady pricing.

Breast meat & tenderloins

Jumbo breast prices and tenderloin prices saw gains again this week. The strength observed in the market can be attributed to increased demand from retail and food service buyers and their promotional activities. These markets are expected to strengthen over the near term. Short Term: Steady to firm pricing.


Wing prices were higher yet again as Super Bowl weekend is upon us. We may have seen historical prices peak about now and the market should begin its seasonal decline. Short Term: Steady to firm pricing.


Thigh prices were stronger this week in part by increased export demand. As the African Swine Fever situation worsens in China, market participants are watching for additional sales to the Chinese. Short Term: Steady to firm pricing.

Turkey whole birds

As expected, the market for whole birds was particularly quiet this week. The extreme cold weather this week didn’t lend any favors to the market as demand remains dull. Short Term: Steady to lower pricing.

Turkey breast meat

The market for turkey breasts was said to be “on ice” this week due to the extremely cold weather and dull demand. However, it should be noted that current breast prices are seasonally strong. Short Term: Steady to lower pricing.


General comments

The arctic blast was unsurprisingly the main topic of concern this week. Market participants are taking a cautious approach as slaughter is looking to be down quite a bit in the near-term as weather has called for many plants in Iowa and Minnesota to close. Pork prices should see a lift from this reduced production.

Bellies and bacon were lifted by QSR promotions which tightened supply considerably. As these promotions wind down, buyers have turned cautious and prices have been slipping. Bone-in loin prices are steady; boneless loin prices are stuck at 26-year lows; Rib prices have been mostly steady. Reduced output should allow the seasonal uptrend to resume in coming weeks. Butt and Ham prices are at their lowest levels in years.

African Swine Fever Update
As the disease continues to spread, estimates of total pigs to die and/or be culled range from 916,000 (the official number provided by the Chinese government) to 100 million. Consider it highly possible that China will have to ramp up pork imports dramatically in the near future. Keep in mind that the Chinese authorities will do anything to prevent a major spike in food prices that impacts their population of 1.6 billion people. Pork is the staple in China. Expectations are that Chinese imports will increase in 2019 – getting their pork from North American, European, and Brazilian markets. We will continue to monitor the situation and keep you informed.


Loin prices climbed for the third week in a row, but current prices still remain at bargain levels, well below seasonally average. The recent strength of the market coincides with seasonal price trends which will likely continue into February. Short Term: Steady to firm pricing.


Tenderloin prices moved lower this week, and erased the gains made last week. As mentioned last week, pork tenderloins present a great buying opportunity at prices well below seasonally average. Short Term: Steady low prices.


Butt prices were slightly lower again last week. Current prices are much lower than seasonal averages, and present buyers a tremendous buying opportunity. Seasonal price trends indicate that prices may rise in the near future. Short Term: Steady prices.


Pork bellies moved lower for the third straight week, and current prices are now in line with seasonal averages. Prices typically begin to rally moving into February, and the market is expected to rebound in the next few weeks. Short Term: Steady to firm pricing.


The rib complex was mixed with Backrib prices climbing slightly higher and primal rib values declining. Current prices are just below seasonally average, but prices will likely move higher in February. Short Term: Steady firm pricing.


Hams adjusted lower this week and erased the gains observed early last week. As mentioned last week, hams are a great bargain-buy as they are at their lowest prices in the month of January over the last five years. Short Term: Steady to weaker prices.



Butter manufacturing remains active across the country as cream supplies are becoming more accessible for churners. Winter weather in the Midwest and Northeast has many bottlers busy standardizing milk, adding more volumes of cream to the already butterfat congested markets. Production is mainly focused on bulk as processors build inventory. Sales are relatively strong for Q1 with food service demand very good. Short Term: Steady to higher prices.


Bitterly cold weather in the Midwest, detrimental to milk production, has driven the price for fresh cheddar higher on buyer concern of being able to source fresh cheddar in the near-term. Otherwise, cheese demand is steady to lower nationwide. Cumulated together, the pull from cheese buyers has not been able to overtake active cheese production. As a result, industry contacts say there has been little substantive effect on drawing down the large cheese inventories. Short Term: Steady to higher pricing.

Shell eggs

Retail demand patterns are reported from fairly good to good. Weather is having an impact on delivery schedules in several northern areas, which created an uptick in orders ahead of current disruptions. Ad schedules are fairly active this week but are expected to slow given the market’s recent rally. Supplier is now balanced with inventories on all sizes despite the Newcastle spread from Mexico and California to Utah. Short Term: Firm pricing.

Milk & cream

Winter weather, including snow and extremely cold temperatures, has impacted most of the Midwest and Northeast, as well as parts of the Western region. The Midwest in particular is expecting a decline in milk production. Up until now, even with fairly mild winter conditions early in the year, overall milk production has seen year to year declines due to closing farms and higher cull rates.

Cream availability is unchanged in most regions and is readily available for most uses. Steady orders for bottled milk has increased bottling activity, increasing cream availability as bottlers skim for school and retail output. Short Term: Steady to firm pricing.


Shellfish & shrimp

Shrimp: The market has become “increasingly convoluted” in the last couple weeks. Sentiments are mostly mixed which is reflected in the mixed market values however there is an upward bias.

Farmed White: HLSO products are firming due to increased overseas asking prices which domestic sellers are attempting to pass on to buyers. It’s too early to gauge buyers’ response, so the market remains largely unchanged. Meanwhile, cooked and peeled white shrimp prices are under downward pressure due to swollen supplies.

Farmed Black Tiger: Much like farmed white shrimp, HLSO black tiger shrimp prices seem to be firming. Fortunately, prices are only firming on 4-6 and 6-8 count shrimp, while the smaller sized HLSO black tiger shrimp prices are unchanged.

Wild, Gulf of Mexico: Offerings are largely unchanged from last week, but pockets of interest are beginning to develop which could place some upward pricing pressure on the market in the near future.

North American Lobster: Prices on hard shell products firmed this week due to a reportedly tight supply. Fortunately, new shell prices remain unchanged.

Warm Water Lobster Tails: Market values were higher on all warm water tails. Demand has been active over the last couple of weeks, which is straining an already exhausted supply. Short Term: Firm pricing.

Live Lobster: Like all other lobster products, prices adjusted higher this week. Both fishing and landings have been poor domestically and in Canada, and demand has ramped up which explains the upward pricing pressure. Short Term: Firm pricing.

Scallops: The market was unchanged this week. The weakness observed in U/10 scallops remains, but offerings were in line with last week. The market may weaken if demand continues to slow. Short Term: Steady to lower pricing.

King Crab: Values were unchanged from last week. Supplies are still considered tight, and prices will likely firm if demand begins to pick up. Short Term: Steady to firm pricing.

Snow Crab: Although supplies are consistent with last week, the market sentiment is weaker on 5-8 oz. while sentiments on larger products are steady. Short Term: Steady pricing.

Crab Meat: Both blue and red swimming crab meat trended lower this week on most grades. Supplies are fully adequate for the current dull demand conditions. Short Term: Lower pricing.


Salmon: West Coast Whole Fish prices trended lower on 16-18 lb. fish, but all other sizes remained steady. Supplies are improving and demand is “fair”. Northeastern Whole Fish prices were lower on 12+ lb. fish due to a quiet demand and adequate supplies. Lastly, Norwegian Whole Fish values adjusted lower again this week and Chilean Whole Fish prices were unchanged. Fillets: In contrast to the whole fish markets, the Chilean fillet market is steady at listed levels. Supplies range adequate to barely adequate for the spot market and this is coupled with a moderate to active demand.

Atlantic Cod: Market conditions mirrored last week, with firm offerings holding firm due to limited supply. Despite the recent strength of the market, prices remain lower than year-ago prices. Short Term: Steady to firm pricing.

Pacific Cod: Offerings were consistent with last week as supplies remain limited for a moderate demand. However, as mentioned last week, the new fishing season is now underway which will hopefully improve supply conditions. Short Term: Steady to firm pricing.

Pollock: The market was unchanged this week, but buyers should keep an eye on pricing as the new fishing season may put some downward pricing pressure on Pollock. Short Term: Steady pricing.

Basa: The softer pricing observed held in tact this week. Supplies are more than adequate and demand is considered fair. Short Term: Steady to lower pricing.

Catfish: Prices on 3-5 oz. catfish firmed while the remainder of the market was unchanged. Current prices are still in line with year-ago prices. Short Term: Steady pricing.

Whole Fish Tilapia: Prices adjusted slightly lower for whole fish tilapia this week after trading at the higher end of the price range last week. Short Term: Steady pricing.

Mahi Mahi Fillets: The market was unchanged this week. Current prices remain below year-ago pricing, and the market is expected to hold steady over the coming weeks. Short Term: Steady pricing.

Grains & oils

Grain & crop summary

High-level trade talks between the US and China got underway Wednesday morning in Washington and is scheduled to continue through Thursday. Informed sources continue to cite wide differences between the two sides on major structural concerns, technology transfers, etc., leaving many to pull back optimism of major developments resulting from the talks. Additional purchases of US agriculture products appear questionable until some sort of an actual agreement is reached.

In late-breaking news, wire services are reporting that China trade negotiators are proposing a Trump-Xi meeting in China next month, which could signal this week’s meeting with trade negotiators are going well enough to “call in the big guns.”

Soybean oil

The European Commission said on Tuesday it had concluded that U.S. soybeans can be used in biofuels in the European Union, part of the bloc’s push to improve strained trade relations with the United States. However, industry sources said it was unlikely to lead to a flood of additional U.S. soybean imports into Europe.

Argentina and the European Union (EU) reached an agreement to end a dispute over exports of biodiesel from the South American country to the bloc, the Argentine Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Wednesday. The deal establishes price and volume limits to be announced next month, the ministry said in a statement. The deal marks the end of a long trade dispute and could help bolster Argentina’s critical soybean sector. Argentina is the world’s top producer of soybean oil, the main ingredient used to make biodiesel. This is friendly for soybean oil prices.


The canola market closed lower on hedge pressure from increased farmer selling. The Canadian dollar has strengthened, which is limiting gains for the canola market. A lack of significant end user demand, as visible supplies remain large, added to the softer tone. Cold temperatures across much of the Prairies are slowing farmer deliveries, which helped limit losses. This is neutral/friendly for canola oil prices.

Palm oil

Average palm oil prices are set to climb this year, a Reuters poll showed, buoyed by slowing output-growth in top producer Indonesia and by robust demand for the commodity which is used to churn out products ranging from chocolate to biofuels. Benchmark palm prices will average 2,375 ringgit ($574.09) a ton in 2019, up 3 percent from 2,308 ringgit last year, according to the median estimate from a poll of 18 analysts and industry players including planters, millers and refiners. This is friendly for palm oil prices.



  • The San Joaquin Valley (California’s primary citrus growing region) will receive a series of rain events through Sunday, February 3
  • Growers are packing ahead in preparation for the rain; most will cancel harvesting due to wet conditions
  • Flexibility in size and grade may be needed for order coverage
  • Markon First Crop and Markon Essentials Lemons and Oranges are available


  • Prices remain elevated
  • Supplies remain limited due to rain in the California and Florida growing regions
  • Mexican stocks (into South Texas and Yuma, Arizona) are sufficient, however increased demand is keeping market elevated


  • Markon First Crop® (MFC) Premium Iceberg weights are higher on average than the rest of the industry (42 to 45 pounds compared with 40 to 43 pounds).
  • Demand continues to strengthen for Golden Delicious and Granny Smith apples; growers will pack fewer cartons in an effort to extend these seasons into September.
  • Many more lime shipments have crossed into the U.S., causing prices to drop.

Produce Highlights


  • Prices are weak
  • Higher temperatures increased volume in all growing areas.


  • Offshore green and red seedless supplies are now shipping.
  • MFC Lunch Bunch Grapes are available, but Markon Essentials® (ESS) Grapes are not on the market at this time.


  • The market is elevated; supplies are tight, especially small sizes.
  • Expect above-normal prices for several more weeks.

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