Beef Prices are Rising (Ours Are Not)

Cattle Stock Prices

For the past few years, I confess a near-complete ignorance of conventional beef prices to the point where, until this Monday, I didn’t have a clue as to what a pound of ground beef runs ($5.79). As late as the Spring of this year, I began to hear rumblings about the prices of conventional beef rising, and people have been asking me about the cause of the price hike (and whether the prices we were paying for beef were also going up).

To address the first question, what I’ve heard is causing the rise of conventional beef prices are two main factors. First, there was a blizzard this winter that wiped out tens of thousands of beef cattle in the plains. Second, there’s a scarcity of grain brought on by, presumably, drought. A scarcity in the of supply of both cattle and feed would certainly lead to higher prices.

To address the second question, no, we haven’t seen the prices we’re paying for cattle rise. Our farms, to my knowledge, did not experience a loss of cattle this winter, even when actual temperatures hovering around -20 F. One wonders whether this has to do with the heartiness of the animals themselves which, in some cases, have had the benefit of a thousand years of natural selection in some very unforgiving climates (like the Highlands of Scotland). In addition, our cattle primarily–if not exclusively–feed on grass, instead of the conventional feed effected by the drought. This is not to say that a drought wouldn’t have a detrimental effect on pasture (it would).

As my family heads north this weekend for a wedding on the shores of Lake Superior, we’ll be swinging by a Highland farm for a visit. While there, I intend to test what has been put forth in this post against a man who has an insider’s connection with the industry. Depending on how the conversation goes, there may be some updates and/or revisions to this post, so stay tuned!

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