Retail prices for selected cuts of meat now will be available on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service web site, according to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA), a member of USDA's Meat Price Reporting Task Force.

Using supermarket scanner data, USDA will maintain a database of monthly average retail prices for selected cuts of beef, veal, pork, poultry and lamb. Consumers and producers can access the information by logging onto the new web site, at www.ers.usda.gov/data/meatscanner.

"The new volume-weighted retail price reporting from ERS will be the most accurate indication we ever had for the price of beef that is sold," says Bryan Dierlam, NCBA's director of legislative affairs. "The ERS data is far superior to the BLS data--information being provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics--because it includes price data on more cuts, information on volumes sold and the discount effects of featuring."

The raw data underlying the database are from supermarkets across the United States that participate in commercial scanner data programs and account for approximately 20% of U.S. supermarket sales.

When Congress considered the Livestock Mandatory Report Act of 1999, NCBA insisted that USDA use private sources to calculate volume-weighted retail meat prices. This reflects, in part, concerns about the effects of industry concentration on prices and reduced bargaining power of independent livestock producers.

The ERS went live with the database Oct. 21.

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