Record high beef prices due to nationwide cattle shortage - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Record high beef prices due to nationwide cattle shortage

Posted: Updated:
Beef cattle are displayed Tuesday morning at the Manchester Livestock Auction Beef cattle are displayed Tuesday morning at the Manchester Livestock Auction
MANCHESTER (KWWL) - Americans are paying record high prices for beef right now due to a national cattle shortage, and this winter's harsh weather hasn't helped the situation for consumers.

Data from the US Department of Agriculture show the price of beef is at an all-time high. The most recent numbers - from February - show a pound of regular ground beef costs, on average, $3.56, and that goes up to $5.19 per pound for lean ground beef.

The overall average retail value of all fresh beef was $5.28 in February. Compare that to Feb. 2013, when it was $4.91 per pound, or Feb. 2012, when it was $4.63. A decade ago, in Feb. 2004, the average retail value of all fresh beef was $3.60 per pound. (In 1970, the farthest back the USDA data go, it was just 23 cents.)

About a dozen beef cattle buyers gathered at the Manchester Livestock Auction Tuesday morning to bid on cattle.

Joe Goergen was among them. He lives in Cedar Rapids and buys beef cattle for a slaughterhouse in Omaha, Neb.

Because the price of corn has gone down from its record high a few years ago, Goergen said, some farmers are feeding their livestock a little bit longer before selling them at auction.

While the high price of beef is good for beef cattle producers, it's not good for folks at the grocery store. Goergen said the cost is high because the number of cattle, nationwide, is low.

"The inventories are way down because of the drought," Goergen said. "They liquidated the cows, so they didn't have the calves. You don't have the calves, you don't have the supply."

While a cattle shortage is the primary and foremost reason for high beef prices, the harsh winter didn't help.

Over in Dubuque County, Paul Vaassen raises beef cattle. He said the long-lasting, bitter cold kept some of the animals from putting on weight over the winter.

"When you have the cold weather like we've had, you just don't get the rate of gain because it takes so much energy to just maintain body weight," Vaassen said.

That likely isn't playing a huge role in beef prices, however, both Vaassen and Goergen said.

Cattle in open lots have had a harder time this winter, whereas cattle kept in confinement buildings are more sheltered from the weather and have been able to gain weight. Many farmers either have confinement buildings or they're continuing to feed their beef cattle that didn't gain over the winter, hoping they'll put on weight as the weather warms.

Still, Vaassen said, some farmers might be selling their cattle now, before the animals gain more weight, just to take advantage of the currently-high prices. The size of those animals would be lower than average.

Both men say it'll likely take three to four years before the number of cattle nationwide goes back up and beef prices, therefore, come back down.

Pork prices are also high right now, whereas pork has traditionally been considerably cheaper than beef. The USDA says fewer hogs are going to market because a virus is killing many of them.

The Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDV) has spread through 26 states, including Iowa. That's why the price of pork has increased five percent in the past year.

  • NEWSNEWSMore>>

  • Cleanup follows heavy storms in Phoenix area

    Cleanup follows heavy storms in Phoenix area

    Wednesday, August 20 2014 8:03 PM EDT2014-08-21 00:03:38 GMT
    Workers at a farm saw hundreds of cactuses sweep away in a flood. Drivers on Arizona's main north-south freeway watched in shock as muddy waters submerged the road. Rescuers across the state rushed to save...More >>
    Residents began cleaning up Wednesday from devastating flooding that slammed Arizona a day earlier, trapping people in vehicles and homes and destroying up to $2 million worth of inventory at a cactus nursery north of...More >>
  • Holder says he understands mistrust of police

    Holder says he understands mistrust of police

    Wednesday, August 20 2014 7:35 PM EDT2014-08-20 23:35:26 GMT
    Police and protesters in Ferguson were finally able to share the streets again at night, putting aside for at least a few hours some of the hostility that had filled those hours with tear gas and smoke.More >>
    Attorney General Eric Holder sought Wednesday to reassure the people of Ferguson about the investigation into Michael Brown's death and said he understands why many black Americans do not trust police, recalling how he...More >>
  • Beheading spurs new attacks on Islamic militants

    Beheading spurs new attacks on Islamic militants

    Wednesday, August 20 2014 7:35 PM EDT2014-08-20 23:35:16 GMT
    Militants with the Islamic State extremist group have beheaded American journalist James Foley and are threatening to kill another hostage in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes in northern Iraq.More >>
    The United States launched a new barrage of airstrikes Wednesday against the Islamic State extremist group that beheaded American journalist James Foley and that has seized a swath of territory across Iraq and Syria....More >>
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and KWWL. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service and Mobile Privacy Policy & Terms of Service.

Persons with disabilities who need assistance with issues relating to the content of this station's public inspection file should contact Administrative Assistant Sandy Youngblut at 319-291-1259. Questions or concerns relating to the accessibility of the FCC's online public file system should be directed to the FCC at 888-225-5322, at 888-835-5322 (TTY) or at fccinfo@fcc.gov.