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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  • by Deb on Feb 1, 2012 at 05:53 AM
    Farmer's Wife & Local are both right but the high price of diesel is the most to blame (besides the ethanol use). Diesel impacts everything from putting the seed in the ground to putting the food in our mouth. Look at the price on the pump when you pass a fuel stop. If you're a farmer you know the high prices paid. Of course let's export our foods so our own people go hungry!
    • reply
      by Garrett on Feb 1, 2012 at 01:26 PM in reply to Deb
      But the politicians and greens demonize those who use and produce fuel instead of politicians who are playing games with the oil industry and the market and we can all just get stuffed. It is time the charade is dropped and prices on fuel come down, or we are done for economically.
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Feb 1, 2012 at 06:16 PM in reply to Garrett
  • by Guest on Feb 1, 2012 at 04:36 AM
    Stan IF you decide to, let me know and Ill buy from you. We buy very little beef anymore because it has no fat, no flavor, and makes NO gravy. Cant beat the taste of homegrown.
  • by Stan on Jan 31, 2012 at 08:12 PM
    Yes it is time again to raise my own beef to put in my freezer.
  • by farmer's wife Location: Chippewa Falls on Jan 31, 2012 at 05:01 PM
    Since ethanol became "the thing", farmers can't feed their cattle corn and get returns greater than or equal to the cost of the corn. Milk price doesn't go up, but operating costs do, including the price of feed. Farmers are better off at this point cash cropping and the animals come in a distant second for income potential.
    • reply
      by local on Jan 31, 2012 at 06:52 PM in reply to farmer's wife
      This comment has been deleted.
      • reply
        by Ethanol on Feb 1, 2012 at 07:42 PM in reply to local
        Actully Ethanol ends up being a cheaper feed when farmer's sell there corn to the Ethanol plants. They take out what is needed for the Ethanol. Then you have the by product. Which is used on most farms today for feeding because its cheaper then corn and you get 2 uses. If there is 5 billon bushels of corn sold to the Ethanol plant there will be 4 billon bushels of by product sold back to farmers!
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