Virus Chaos Makes Beef a Luxury Consumers Are Willing to Forgo

In times of economic woe, one of the first luxuries to go is beef. That old adage is so far proving to be true as the global coronavirus outbreak dents demand.

A key U.S. government report Tuesday lowered forecasts for American exports of the meat amid weaker demand, while an industry group a day earlier said weakness in red meat shipments due to coronavirus could show up soon in trade data. Asian nations including China, South Korea and Japan, which are top importers of beef, have seen a slowdown in restaurant traffic. That’s bad news for premium cuts of American steak.

As the virus continues its spread outside of Asia, fears are mounting of a global economic slowdown, even a recession in the U.S., which is more kryptonite for beef. Cattle futures in Chicago have tanked since the start of the year, as have shares for meatpackers including U.S. giant Tyson Foods Inc.

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