Choice beef is what consumers want

newspaperU.S. beef producers are raising more beef that is grading choice or prime, and consumers have an extremely high demand for those higher-quality products.

In recent weeks, the Choice-Select spread—the difference in assigned value between wholesale beef with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “select” grade and beef with the higher “choice” grade — has risen to all-time highs. More than half of U.S. beef cattle are sold in a system that assigns price based on grade, and most graded U.S. beef is either select or choice.

According to USDA market news on June 17, the Choice-Select spread was $22.22. To put things into perspective, the average choice-select spread is $8.

“There are any number of factors that can contribute to shifts in the spread, including improved genetics, feeding efficiencies and the weather,” explained Spencer Neale, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation vice president of commodity marketing. “Of course demand for higher-quality meats increases with the start of the traditional outdoor summer grilling season.”

Beef producers, Neale noted, “are mindful of demand trends like this and the importance of having ample supplies available at peak times.”

Aside from there being more choice and prime beef coming to market, total beef production is up as well. Beef production numbers during April and May were already 6 percent ahead of last year’s pace.

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