Consumers have been paying near-record retail prices for beef, and with fewer and fewer head on feed, one has to assume that prices are going up, and going up for the foreseeable future.

At what point do consumers say, “No thanks, I’ll have a pork chop instead?” Pork and poultry producers are banking on that in a big way in 2014, and in some cases it might already be happening.

USDA reported that August feedlot placements were the smallest on record since the current data series began in 1996. At 1.79 million head, placements were down 11% from last year, and well below the average of analysts’ pre-report estimates.

Last month’s report showed a similar surprise, with July placements down 10% from the previous year, at 1.72 million head. Consider also that placements last year declined some 10% from the July 2011 figure, so the July placements were being compared to already low placement levels in 2012.

To read more about August placements and beef prices, click here.

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