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    Beef Prices Expected to Increase in Coming Weeks

    CHICAGO - Consumer prices for steaks and other beef items may increase in the next few weeks as record-high wholesale beef prices reach supermarkets, livestock analysts said on Friday.

    CHICAGO - Consumer prices for steaks and other beef items may increase in the next few weeks as record-high wholesale beef prices reach supermarkets, livestock analysts said on Friday.

    That could mean higher prices by Memorial Day weekend (May 24-26), the first big cookout weekend of the summer, as supermarkets heavily promote grilling items.

    The number of cattle in U.S. feedlots is the lowest in four years after producers reduced herds in response to almost two years of losses.

    But now producers are finally turning a healthy profit as prices rise.

    The price of hamburger has remained relatively low because the number of cows and bulls being slaughtered to produce this meat is higher, Jim Robb, economist at the Livestock Marketing Information Center, told Reuters.

    The daily wholesale price for choice beef as reported by the U.S. Agriculture Department is now at a record high. On Friday, USDA reported the wholesale price for choice beef, called a cutout value, reached $142.50 per 100 lbs.

    "We may break the $140 level (per hundredweight) for a weekly average for the first time in history," Robb said.

    For April, retail prices for choice beef averaged a record $3.65 a pound, up from the record-high $3.57 in March, according to USDA's most recent monthly summary.

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