Strong beef prices and increased demand, due in part to new pre-cooked items, are predicted to continue, which is good news for cattle producers attending the 47th annual Beef Cattle Short Course held here at Texas A&M University.

Dr. Ernie Davis, a livestock marketing economist with Texas Cooperative

Extension, says a decrease in beef production this year, coupled with a decline in heifer retention will keep beef prices on the upswing for two more years.

This comes after record supplies of beef produced in 1999 and 2000, Davis told the group.

“Increases in beef production won't start until 2004 if we're saving heifers now,” Davis said.

Meanwhile, prices for 500-600 pound steers were $101.87 per hundred weight as of July 25. Last year, prices were at $94.98.

New product developments, such as pre-cooked beef items, have helped increase beef consumption as well, Davis said. According to Harry Balzer, a consumer analyst with the NPD Group, “Make no mistake, the ready-to-eat products are the trend.”

And beef is the popular choice among today's consumers, which was pleasing news to the cattle producers in attendance.

“Beef is by far the most popular item likely to be found on the American table,” Balzer said.

Balzer said consumers are currently concerned with weight loss and sandwiches are the hottest selling item of the year.