The USDA released the latest “meat prices spreads” this Friday afternoon, so we thought this was a good time to remember who gets the beef when it comes to the cattle market. 

The chart above shows the difference in price between the retail value of choice beef (in red) and the net farm value (in blue). The figures show the average cents per pound paid for choice beef at the retail level, and the net value retained by the farmer and rancher.

Basically, you can see that there is a fairly large spread between what farmers and ranchers receive for a pound of beef and what retailers take in. Farmers received 46.3 percent of the retail value of a pound of beef. That’s about what they got in 2005.

One of the issues the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Justice have been looking into over the past year is whether the markets for food are distorted in a way that unfairly diminishes the share of the food dollar going to farm producers. Not much has changed over the past several years. Farmers and ranchers still receive less than half of what is collected at the cash register for a pound of burger or ribeye.