Smallest US Cattle Herd Since 1952 Likely to Send Beef Prices Skyrocketing

Due to drought and increased demand from overseas buyers, the number of cattle currently in the United States is at its lowest point in sixty years, and it’s not likely to get better anytime soon, meaning prices for steak, hamburger and all other beef prices will likely be rising dramatically very soon, and will almost certainly stay that way for several years. The Department of Agriculture reported this past Friday that the number of cattle in the US is down 2% over this time last year, and last year was the lowest since 1952.

According to USA Today, beef price increases at large chain grocery stores likely won’t rise until the summer as grocers attempt to shield their customers from the sudden price hikes due to shortages of beef. Also, restaurant chains such as McDonald’s are unlikely to be affected since the majorly of their beef comes from Mexico and South America. Those who frequent traditional restaurants will thus likely feel the price hikes the soonest especially when ordering what are normally pricier cuts to begin with, such as the ever popular T-Bone steak. This is partly due to the overall beef shortage and partly due to an increase in overseas demand from such countries as China and Japan, where eating beef by the local population has increased significantly in recent years.

Wisconsin Agriculturist magazine is also reporting that beef prices will remain high for several years as there is significant lag time in building herds with offspring coming just once a year.

The overall decline in the number of cattle in the US is due to both increased demand and the ravages of weather. The continued drought in Texas, Oklahoma and surrounding states has made it difficult to support herds, which has led to more cows being slaughtered over the winter, much of which wound up as beef being sold overseas as there was a very temporary glut from so many ranchers thinning their herds.

The new is not all bad, as the Agriculturist reports, higher prices for beef mean higher profits for cattle ranchers for the cows that do make it to marker. One such farmer, mentioned by US Today, notes that cattle ranchers in states not affected by drought are seeing their highest returns ever, providing funds for upgrades and improvements and of course more cattle.

Also lessening the impact of the high prices is the continuing trend of Americans to eat less meat overall.

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