The Price Of Beef Goes Up As Cattle Herds Get Smaller

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — If beef is what’s for dinner, then dinner is getting more and more expensive. In fact, the retail price for a pound of ground beef is up 17 percent from just a year ago.

Experts said the price of beef is likely to keep rising in 2012. At meat counters across the country, it’s the topic of conversation.

“Every time I look at something it seems like it’s up a dime,” said Walt Petkiw, a meat eater.

Dr. Ryan Cox, an assistant professor in the Department of Animal Science at the University of Minnesota, said that the United States probably has the smallest cow herd since the 1970s. A small herd, he said, means less beef for consumers.

But what’s made today’s herd so small?

Some blame the drought in the south for forcing farmers to reduce their herds. Cox also said the price of corn used to feed cows has doubled in the past four years, forcing farmers to pay may more to feed their cows.

He believes consumers also play a role in the price of beef. Since the recession of 2008, many are opting for cheaper cuts of beef.

“We’ve got a little more demand for ground products. There is a perceived value in ground beef. When that happens, then we see the demand for whole muscle cuts like steaks and roast actually decrease,” Cox said.

That decrease then forces the price of ground beef up, because producers have to grind more of the carcass to meet the needs of the consumer.

It’s estimated total beef production may fall to 25 billion pounds next year, a five percent decrease from 2011.

Another reason beef prices are on the rise is ethanol production. It’s diverted the feed supply from cattle.

So prepare to spend more money on the cuts of beef you buy, at least until the end of 2012. Experts believe prices will continue to climb in 2012, but in 2013, prices may drop.

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