The retail price for all fresh beef averaged a record-high $4.772/lb in October, $0.124/lb higher than in September and $0.276/lb higher than October 2011. For the year to date, all fresh retail beef averaged $0.254/lb, or 5.8%, higher than for the same period in 2011. Higher retail beef prices this year have primarily resulted from the declining quantity of beef available to consumers. While quantity data are not yet available for the month of October, it is apparent that Americans are eating less beef. For the third quarter of 2012, retail beef consumption was 14.5 lb per capita, a low for the third quarter of any previous year. It’s about 1% lower than 2011:3 and nearly 5% lower than 2010:3.

For the July-September quarter, all fresh retail prices averaged $4.688/lb. That’s $0.23/lb higher than the third quarter of 2011 on a nominal basis, or about $0.12/lb higher on a real (inflation-adjusted) basis. So, real all fresh retail beef price was 3.4% higher in the third quarter this year compared to 2011. That price increase was enough to offset the 1% lower consumption last quarter for beef demand to increase 2% for the third quarter. This compares to first quarter demand increasing by 3.5% and second quarter demand increasing by 4%. Thus, it appears that beef demand growth is beginning to slow.