Small cattle herds raise beef prices

By: Alyssa Fenske Email
By: Alyssa Fenske Email

La Crosse (WEAU) -The smallest U.S. cattle herd in 60 years may raise beef prices.

A pound of ground chuck is already close to $4 in some supermarkets. The Agriculture Department says the price shouldn’t be going down anytime soon.

Shelly LaPlount has three young mouths to feed. When she shops, getting protein is on the top of her list.

“I haven’t noticed too much about the prices because I have to buy the meat anyways. I pick up what I need regardless of the price,” said LaPlount.

With the prices staying high, it's forcing customers to find alternatives.

“Meat’s part of my diet, but I’ll probably not eat as much," said Cindy Munsen, an avid consumer.

“I’ll take a look between chicken, beef, and turkey. I’ll see if there are any that we have to get, and the one with the lowest price we will be eating the most of,” said LaPlount

The reason for the rising prices is cattle herd size.

“The cattle herd in the US is the lowest it’s been in 50 years, and the population in the U.S. hasn’t gotten any less,” said Rod Knudtson, Market Manager at Equity Livestock Market in Sparta.

Retail beef prices will likely raise 4-5% this year, compared to the 10% it raised in 2011.

“We might see prices raise a little in the market, but it’s not going to fluctuate a whole lot. I don’t see it going down a whole lot either," said Knudtson.

But farmers are still just making a living.

“I don’t think they’re getting rich. They’re probably doing a little better than what they had, but a lot of these guys have gone through some pretty lean years too," said Knudtson.

He says a severe drought in the southern states seems to be the blame for the thinning herds.

“If you go back 3-5 years ago out west they had a drought. There were a lot of cattle sold off at that time,” said Knudtson.

Knudtson also comments that the U.S. is exporting beef more than they have ever before, which may influence the price a bit.

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