Thursday, April 4, 2024

Remember our warnings about the price of beef?


Looks like the lengthy drought in Texas is finally making its way through to the end of the food chain.

The drought last year had a drastic impact on farmers in the cattle industry and the aftermath can be seen now.

The harvest season is about to start, but many cattle farmers sold most of their cattle due to the drought last season.

“Last year and especially this year we have lower production because during the drought we sold all those cows or we sold more cows than we had,” Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Economist, Francisco Abello said.

The cost for farmers to raise and maintain cattle is higher due to less production.

“Now that we have lower production, we have lower supply which means higher prices,” Abello said.

The beef industry has faced the sharpest decline due to the drought with production being down an estimated 26 billion lbs and that’s not including the recent panhandle fires.

The true impact of the panhandle fires on agriculture and cattle has yet to be truly measured and experts say it will only add to the setbacks from the drought.

. . .

The price impact has not only impacted farmers but it’s affecting consumers as well.

“When I first started this say four years ago, the prices that we are paying now are double. If I could get beef say at $5.99 a pound, now it’s $9.99 a pound so then that goes over to the consumer normally who catches the full rift of that,” Davenports Grocery Owner, Rickey Lowe says.

“The market right now and the way the economy is, everybody is watching prices, everybody is watching the dollar, and if you’re not watching the dollar it slides out of your hand and into someone else’s and it just doesn’t come back as easy as it use to,” Lowe said.

. . .

The timetable for when the drought and cattle production will improve is still unknown.

There's more at the link.

I can tell you that when I drive through northern Texas or southern Oklahoma, I'm seeing very few cattle grazing in the fields compared to previous years - a lot less than half as many, I'd guesstimate.  I'm also informed that where arrangements used to have to be made several weeks in advance to take cattle to local slaughterhouses, now it can sometimes be arranged in a matter of days, because the demand for their services is so much smaller.

I'm also seeing mostly cheaper cuts of meat (and generally lower quality meat) on offer at local supermarkets.  One can get the "good stuff", of course, but one has to ask for it, and the cost per pound is a real blow to the wallet.  In 2022 I was able to buy filet mignon for about $15 per pound.  Now, it's more than double that for the best meat.  (Not that we routinely buy filet mignon, you understand;  I'm just citing it as an example.)  I'm very glad that we filled our freezer with half a cow a couple of years ago, and added a lamb and some other meat as well.  We still have a lot of it in store, and it'll keep us going through this year for sure.  After that, we'll hope that prices come down to a more affordable level.  (That may not work out for us, of course.  If it doesn't, we'll be eating more vegetarian meals, I guess!  Fortunately, I like vegetarian food if it's a good recipe, well prepared.)

What's the price and quality of meat like in your area, dear readers?  Please let us know in Comments.  It might be useful to compare notes around the country.



tweell said...

In NW Arkansas, if I buy a 10 pound chub of the cheapest hamburger at Walmart, it costs $3.50 a pound. Everything else goes up from there. The cheap tough steaks in the family size packages are $8 a pound. The filet mignon is 'only' $23 a pound, so it looks like we have it slightly cheaper here.

We've been eating a lot more pork and chicken lately. Pork loin is fairly reasonable at $2 - 2.50, so I slice that up to grill. Chicken legs or whole chicken are still cheap, at $1-1.50 a pound here.

I got my freezer too late to fill it with beef. It is getting filled with marked down Easter hams instead.

Anonymous said...

Local local, local!
Find a local farmer, buy half a cow, its worth it! I bought an extra freezer just to hold ours.

heresolong said...

If only there were a kind of beef cow that required minimal water and minimal care that was well suited for a drought period in Texas.


JNorth said...

Not sure about Walmart, it's across town from me, but the Kroger ground beef is $5.99/lb. and Safeway is always more then Kroger.

Let you all in on a little "secret"; if you look on Kroger's site under Digital Coupons there is a FAQ and the third from the bottom states;

"Can I use digital coupons at any Kroger company family of stores?

Yes, your digital coupons can be used at any Kroger family of stores assuming the product is in stock. Rain checks or "make good" offers are available at your manager's discretion."

So, by that, what some of us have found out is known and intended by Kroger...

When you "clip" digital coupon to your Kroger (or Fred Meyers, or Frys, etc.) card you first have to tell it where you are so it knows what weekly adds to pull up. But remember it says "your digital coupons can be used at ANY Kroger family of stores" so I say I'm in Texas and clip a coupon for chuck roast at $3.49/lb. instead of the coupon in my area at $5.49/lb.

There are also issues with how they process BOGO (buy one get one free) deals along side coupons (like subtracting the "get one free" cost at the base price instead of the coupon price), but I think that is probably a computer error.

Unknown said...

Beef prices at Sam's Club in MN have been stable the last couple of years. Organic hamburger $5, Round steak $5, Sirloin $9, USDA prime ribeye $18. It's a budget buster, but a whole prime brisket (15-20 lbs) was only $4.25/lb. last week.

Pork still affordable. Baby back ribs $2.98.

Chicken, on the other hand, has nearly doubled over the same time frame.

Anonymous said...

Can’t comment on the price of beef here in Southern Idaho, as we are able to raise our own. But there are a lot of grazing cowherds around, plus all the dairies. So there will be some fat wallets around this fall, hopefully.

John Galt said...

I have noticed that Kroger ( at least here in Houston area) typically will run a deal on choice steaks about every 6-8 weeks. Recent examples include strip steaks around $4.50 a pound ( Hamburger prices). Last week they had Choice rib roasts for $4.99 ( with $25 purchase) and you used their digital coupons. In the past few months I have also seen them price boneless rib steaks in a family pack at that price. So....I had them cut me a family pack that consisted of a 2 1/2 rib steak and a 4 1/2 rib steak.

I do agree pork and chicken are the discount meats at this time. I recently got a Pork shoulder at $.50 a pound ( At H-E-B a regional chain) and boneless skinless chicken breasts for $.99 a pound.

Sometimes the local Hispanic market ( again a regional Store- Fiesta Mart) has great values. Thursdays are their " slow" day so they have extra mark-downs on Thursdays only. Shop around and stock up when you find a bargain. ( As to buy a cow...I had a chance at a Steer but I couldnt find a butcher that wasn't backed up over 3 months!!

Anonymous said...

Virginia upper Shenandoah Valley ... the pastures seem to have plenty of beefers grazing. If we have to depend on local supply only, I think we'll fare okay.

Peteforester said...

I don't have exact numbers for you, but meat prices have risen to the "If it's not on sale, I'm not buying it" stage.

Higher beef prices have been on the horizon for a while. The ranchers sold off their stock because of the drought a while back. This actually produced somewhat of a glut in the supermarkets. Now the herds are at their lowest numbers since, I believe, 1963, and it takes YEARS for those herds to recover. You can't sell or slaughter what you don't have. Look for shortages and high prices to continue for quite a while.

If you can afford a freezer and have room for one, buying one will be money well spent. Buy meat in bulk when it's on sale, vacuum-seal it, and throw it in the freezer. Vacuum-sealed meat will keep for YEARS in the freezer!

Anonymous said...

We've noticed a big increase in price out here, but it's irregular.
Ground meat almost always starts at $3.50 a lb for high fat content and $5.99 a lb for better grades. Stew meat is consistently $6.99 a lb or higher... But steaks and roasts can vary wildly from $3 a lb to $9 a lb for the same cut (I'm talking cheaper cuts like sirloin, rib roast, etc).
Recently we've bought and cut up steaks and roasts because they were cheaper than stew meat or ground; it's crazy!
The cattle herds are unchanged or increasing here compared to 3 years ago; while it's always dry here, the last 2 years have been very wet.

Skyler the Weird said...

The local ranch at the farmer's market lists Filet mignon @$25.99 lb but their website says they're out. Their April package for $75 has 3lb ground beef, a 4lb Brisket, a pound of Bratwurst and a one pound porterhouse steak. Not sure if that's worth it. I got more in the March package.

The local Hispanic grocery Compare Foods usually is cheaper for some cuts of meat and you can find things like Goat the regular chains don't carry.

It's very expensive to be a carnivore these days. You can't even afford a happy meal anymore.

Anonymous said...

Moose meat ,not store bought.