Watch Your Wallet: Beef Prices will just continue to go up.The trick is in getting wholesale meat online, particularly in local markets such as Fulton, Columbia, or Jefferson City. But the reasons have everything to do with how our markets operate.
From a 2012 news report:
Richard Vasquez, Meat Department Manager at Wood-dale Meat Market, laid it out recently:
"Ground beef is at about $2.99 and that's pretty much stayed. It's your higher end steaks that we've seen the high jump in, about $2.00 a pound. One is supply and demand, and the second is the drought in the midwest has a lot to do with it. The supply of cattle, the grain, the corn has a lot to do with it. Everything I'm seeing, at least a 10 percent increase in all proteins."
The last couple of years of drought have been hard on both cattle ranchers and corn farmers. Grass fed beef graziers have only had half of this problem. However, the grass they live on - unless properly managed - is under extreme stress and won't regrow at any speed with lack of moisture and increased heat.
Some solutions are to wean early and reduce calf populations and so reduce the need for grass intake. This of course runs into the problem of shipping calves off to a feedlot, where they will have to be fed higher-priced corn and soy supplements. Which then also means that the lighter-weight beef will be more costly to produce for the market.
"This appears to be a long-term spike because we've seen a reduction in the mother cow herd in the United States, and with that there's no calves for next year so we look to see this to go on for a long time," said Jack Lavers, President, Kern County Cattleman's Association.
Oddly, ranchers are finding it more profitable to export beef to other countries. That gives us additional problems of working to provide the US with enough meat.
"We're actually exporting our own meat to countries like South Korea, Mexico and to Russia. So with all that going on we're playing a little game here trying to make sure the American consumer is getting all the meat they want and it's driving up the costs," added Lavers.
Officials with the beef industry say it usually takes about two to three years to cycle, which means it could be a couple of years before any relief for customers is seen at the market. It's the weather which holds the cards now. While parts of Texas and Oklahoma are on their third year of this drought, Missouri, Nebraska, and Kansas are also seeing extreme conditions continuing from last summer.
All of that means that there is no end in sight for rising meat prices.[Update: Now supermarket "mystery" ground beef is up to $3.00 a pound here in the Midwest (it's a mystery what's actually in it.) And farmers' market grass-fed sirloin has been above $15 a pound for sometime.]
My own suggestion, as usual, is to Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food.
As you can access wholesale beef online by networking with your local farmer, you can still take advantage of wholesale meat prices by buying in bulk. And that is a solution which will bring you even cheaper meat, regardless of the economics farmer and markets face.
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And here's some related blog posts which cover this discussion of getting wholesale meat over the internet:
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