Batten Down The Burger Hatches: Beef Prices Ballooning This Year

Snacking on steak sandwiches and biting into burgers is going to hit you where it hurts, in your already moaning and groaning wallet. Ground beef prices are already at a record high and are going to keep soaring, and the cost of steak is on the uptick too. Time to go vegetarian!

USA Today blames the price increases partly on severe drought on the plains where cattle herds roam, bringing the number of beef-giving cattle to the lowest levels since 1952. The Agriculture Department says there are only about 91 million head of cattle in the country on Jan. 1, a 2% decrease from last year.

Another contributor is the skyrocketing price of corn, which ranchers use to bolster the diet of their cattle. When there’s no grass, corn is expensive and land comes at a premium price, ranchers end up selling their cattle to feedlots or slaughterhouses if they can’t afford to feed them. Many animals were sold to feedlots or slaughterhouses.

Ground beef could go up 4-5% this year from $2.87 a pound to $3.55 per, and steak is skyrocketing 14% to more than $6.00 a pound, after a previous increase of 10% last year. Makes you want to rethink those weekly barbecues, or at least reach for the ground turkey.

Smallest U.S. cattle herd in 60 years may raise beef prices [USA Today]

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  1. Robofish says:

    hopefully I’m not the only one, but finding it is more expensive to buy produce at the local store then beef, really *witty remark*

  2. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    “Time to go vegetarian!”

    If you want a burger, Costco sells packages of chicken burger patties, turkey burgers, and salmon burgers. All of them are quite tasty, and healthier than the beef burgers
    .
    *Surely you can get these at a regular grocery store as well

    • FrugalFreak says:

      Venison burger as well.

      • Cat says:

        I would agree, but the economics of hunting – and even fishing – are questionable, depending on what you have to pay and what you have to go through. The price of fish per pound is astronomical if you own a fishing boat and factor that cost in with licensing and other associated costs.

        Now if I could put a salt lick outside my back door and shoot without a license and permits, Yea, that’s cheap.

        • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

          Huntington & fishing are a lot like gardening, where it’s a lot of work but if you’ve invested towards the start up costs, it can greatly supplement one’s food budget. The key is to actually enjoy doing it, otherwise there isn’t much of a point.

          • Cat says:

            Gardening is a LOT cheaper to get into and easier to profit. Costs can be as little as 5 packs of seed for a dollar, a shovel and rake. Payback is after the first 2 pounds of tomatoes.

            Hunting would require a gun, license, and possibly permits (doe, duck stamps, etc). It’s several hundreds of dollars minimum before you even step into the field.

            Fishing, at a minimum requires a license – in most states, that’s $30, plus the pole and tackle. That’s a faster payback than hunting, but figure $50 minimum before you catch even one fish. Break-even point is about 10 pounds of fish.

            • The Porkchop Express says:

              break even on fishing could be just one big fish though!! or a whale.

            • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

              I guess a lot of it just depends on where you live.

              I’ve lived most of my life in the northeast and midwest and inheriting guns and fishing equipment is pretty much a given. The only cost is a getting a license, which can be pretty steep. Though, even in a bad season, I’ve always come out ahead.

              Getting a buck can be challenging but does are pretty easy. It’s the same thing with fish, the more desirable fish can be challenge but it’s hard to go out for the day and not come back with a decent, state maximum, haul.

            • Kate says:

              Gardening is only helpful seasonally.

              • jasonq says:

                Most fruits and veggies can be canned and/or frozen quite easily – it’s work, but not exactly rocket surgery.

            • human_shield says:

              Gardening in a small backyard garden doesn’t actually make financial sense. After the cost of soil, fertilizer, seeds, tools, time invested, and the list goes on…it is cheaper just to buy it at the store. I have a home garden and I harvest every year. I love the food, but I don’t fool myself that it is cheaper than buying Tomatoes at Wallymart.

          • Cigamit says:

            My retired neighbor is living off of feral hogs and vegetables from his garden and the neighbors gardens. They trade vegetables so they each don’t have to grow everything. Hogs are plentiful enough that he can trap 4-5 a week. Any extras that he doesn’t need, he sells for $.50 a pound at a local place (depending on size, generally the 200 pound range is optimally priced). He then uses that money to buy any extra groceries he may need such as milk and the occasional steak.

        • jasonq says:

          The easiest/cheapest way to handle it is to befriend hunters, and tell them if they shoot a deer but still have a full freezer you’ll take it. I got a buck last fall in just that fashion. Turns out that corn-fed venison kinda tastes like ultra-lean grass-fed beef.

    • Dallas_shopper says:

      Already went vegetarian.

    • longfeltwant says:

      What makes them more healthy?

  3. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    Time to go vegetarian!

    Because there is no meat besides beef!

    • denros says:

      Right? I can get locally raised, grass-fed elk, bison and red stag for these prices. MUCH healthier, anyway.

  4. FrugalFreak says:

    Did I not expect this? one excuse or another for increased profits.

    • TheMansfieldMauler says:

      Not sure if serious…

      • FrugalFreak says:

        Serious! Ranchers have been paying top dollar for land and buying lots of it, We are the ones paying for that through prices. it’s always one excuse or another. Too dry, too much rain, corn too high, something is always the root when an industry decides to increase profits. They can’t just come out and say “We just want to raise our profit level” now can they?

        • TheMansfieldMauler says:

          If you know who this cabal of ranchers is that is doing this price collusion, you should notify the US Justice Department.

          Or maybe read up on supply/demand and commodities markets (especially in regards to corn, which is cattle feed).

          • FrugalFreak says:

            i never said collusion. Just that they are doing it independently, but idustry wide for some part.
            article

            when they sell land at loss relocate then buy new land that is increased in price due to demand, the prices will have to pay for that.

          • HomerSimpson says:

            You think the justice department cares? They’re too busy shutting down filesharing sites!

  5. jsweitz says:

    Yet ANOTHER reason why making ethanol out of corn is a bad idea

    • fredbiscotti says:

      Good thing congress eliminated that subsidy.

      • jsweitz says:

        Except that the ethanol MANDATE is still in place. Sure, we aren’t paying a subsidy, but its still required to be in gas, and in increasing amounts.

    • FrugalFreak says:

      Anyone else had gas stations in the area charging more for ethanol free gas? paying a premium just for Reg ol’ Gas. LOL

      • rpm773 says:

        I haven’t seen that, but I’d be willing to test it just to see what kind of mileage I’d get from a tank of good ol’ gas. It was about mid 2008 when I noticed my mpg dropping by about 20 – 25% almost overnight.

      • HomerSimpson says:

        Not many stations around here that sell ethanol-free anymore, but they were usually about 20% more than the “usual” stuff

  6. milkcake says:

    Well, this is not going to stop me from eating steak every week.

    • BennieHannah says:

      Eating steak once a week is fine! It’s eating steak every day because you DESERVE it, that’s the problem. We eat mostly vegetarian and pescatarian at home (I’m a great cook) and when we go out either to restaurants or to friends’ houses, he gets to indulge in meaty goodness. (Although he’s found that his taste for meat has waned somewhat, which happens since eating habits so closely correlate with eating preferences.)

      It IS possible to moderate meat consumption and still eat delicious food. I don’t want to pry meat from anyone’s cold dead hands; I just want my husband to be healthy and attractive (sexy!), and ALIVE for as long as is possible.

  7. dolemite says:

    $3.55 is not a 4-5% increase from 2.87, but more like 23%

    • ChuckECheese says:

      Where is there $2.87/lb ground beef? In Phoenix, I can’t find 80/20 chuck for less than $3.59/lb, and if you want anything leaner, prepare to pay $4.50 to $5/lb.

      • Silverhawk says:

        Exactly. I read the summary and wondered where people are able to pay just $2.87/lb for hamburger. Hasn’t been that cheap anywhere I’ve shopped in some time. And if it was, I’d question if I really wanted it.

        • philpm says:

          I was finding 80/20 ground beef, and good quality meat, for $1.99 a pound all over central and western New York last summer. It is about $2.79 and up for the same thing where I live in Missouri.

      • caradrake says:

        It’s around 2.20-2.80 around here, at Walmart and Aldi’s. Not sure about Publix, but their meat tends to be more expensive in general. Alberton’s still regularly has their ground beef for around $1.88 on sale (don’t know the fat content, its the stuff in the butcher’s case).

      • HomerSimpson says:

        Even crappy 73/27 is now $3.89/lb at Giant (and it just recently had gone up to $3.49)

      • Cactus Wren says:

        I’m in the Phoenix area too: this week only, Albertson’s has 93/7 ground beef for $2.79/lb.

  8. mazda33jdm says:

    Ron Swanson will help fix this. He is a mans man!

  9. who? says:

    To clarify. Cattle eat grass for the first few months of their lives, until they’re sent to the feedlots to be fattened before slaughter. Feedlots feed the cattle corn.

    What’s happening is that corn prices were already high, mostly as a result of ethanol production. Because of the drought, there’s less grass available on the grazing land, so ranchers have to either reduce the size of their herds to compensate for the lack of grass, or supplement the cattle’s feed, usually with corn. Which raises the price of corn further.

    An additional problem is that we’ve had abundant supplies of cheap corn for so long that corn is involved in the production of practically every food we eat. Animals, from cattle to tilapia, that should never have been fed corn in the first place, are fed corn diets. And every processed food in existence is just a corn delivery system.

    That ground turkey is corn fed, so expect turkey prices to rise, also.

    • MrEvil says:

      WRONG, Cattle are fed on grass for as long as they’re gaining weight from it. It is FAR less expensive per pound to put cattle out on grass or wheat pasture than to send them to a feed lot. Feed yards charge almost twice as much per pound to feed cattle as my dad and I charge to put cattle out on our wheat pasture.

      What’s really caused the price of beef to climb is that my dad, and many other pasture owners, didn’t have ANY grass pasture. They also didn’t have wheat pasture to graze cattle on at all in 2011. My dad was fortunate enough to have a few dozen hay bales that he managed to sell quickly to make up for the lack of pasture income which again, hay is more expensive than pasture.

      With this shortage animals have to go to slaughter underweight or spend more time at the more costly feed yard. Underweight animals cut into fewer pounds of meat, which means supply is also shortened. Higher Expenses + decrease in supply = higher prices.

  10. Back to waiting, but I did get a cute dragon ear cuff says:

    Math is hard.

    5% increase from $2.87 is just under 15¢. Added together that comes to $3.02.

    $3.55 is almost a 25% increase.

    I guess the rest is the hidden fat tax.

  11. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    I’m not surprised by this, and neither should anyone else who shops for groceries on a weekly basis. In my neck of the woods, prices on some items have doubled or even tripled over the last 2 years or so. Red onions (which I love) are now $1.99/lb and even plain yellow onions are $1.59/lb. 5 lbs red potatoes were $5.99. Sirloin was $5.69/lb. Ballpark franks are now $4.99 a pack. The list goes on and on.

    I used to try to avoid wildlife on my travels around the neighborhood, but now I’m thinking I should speed up and plow over a few wild turkeys or lure a deer closer to the house. In my younger poorer days I ate road killed deer, and will do so again rather than pay higher and higher beef prices.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      I’ve noticed the same thing with onions and green peppers.

      There’s nothing wrong with eating road kill. The rules vary by state when it comes to licenses and tags. You just have to be extremely careful because so many of them have ruptured intestines and bowels.

      • patty says:

        Which is why my neighbor says” if you are going to hit a deer, hit him in the front not the back.” Big dude is not only the BEST neighbor, but a hunter as well.

      • ChuckECheese says:

        I get better prices at the ethnic stores (in my part of the world that means Asian or Mexican). In your part maybe that’s … Italian?

      • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

        I live in PA, so we have to phone the game commission and get a permit, plus in the past I’ve been asked to put the head and hide aside for them to pick up. One summer, they said they’d be around the next day to pick up the head and hide, and asked me to put them in a box at the end of the driveway. Which I did, and they didn’t show. 3 days later, I was a little annoyed about having to walk past a strong decomp smell to get the mail. Then they told me to bury it. (thanks a lot).

  12. SpamFighterLoy says:

    The skyrocketing price of corn will get a boost from the ethanol subsidies that just expired (thank you!). I predict a less than 23% impact.

    • one swell foop says:

      You’ll more than make up for the difference in gas, depending on where you live. Because that ethanol subsidy just expired, gas stations are going to have to raise prices. I just did a real estate closing with a couple that owns a gas station and they mentioned that in our discussion. It’s a good thing I don’t own an SUV!

  13. tape says:

    $2.87 a pound for ground beef? where? I haven’t seen ground beef for that low a price in years.

  14. philpm says:

    What I want to know is why ground beef is a dollar or more a pound cheaper in New York State than it is in Missouri.

    • john says:

      Exactly!!! I don’t know about NYC and milk, but we are paying more than the national average on milk here. In the midwest???

      • philpm says:

        Not sure what the national average is on milk, but I’m spending about $2.30 for a half gallon of whole milk here.

  15. Velifer says:

    Time to go vegetarian!
    No, time to start making my own beef at home.

  16. shinazzle23 says:

    But on the plus side, now that McDonald’s is dropping Pink Slime from its ingredient list the price of that should drop (your grocery store might sell it as “beef trimmings”).

    The FREE MARKET WINS AGAIN!!!!!

    http://blogs.ajc.com/business-beat/2012/01/30/mcds-drops-pink-slime-from-its-burgers/?cxntfid=blogs_business_beat

  17. areaman says:

    Looks like beef has fallen during the 70s and it can’t get up.

    Not sure why the chart is so small. Hit: Ctrl + a few times.

    http://static.thesocietypages.org/socimages/files/2010/12/US-Meat-Consumption-blog480.jpg

  18. smartmuffin says:

    Just remember, there isn’t any inflation going on. You know that’s true because the government says so.

  19. marc6065 says:

    I prefer Soylent Green!! Let’s stop wasting thousands of dollars on useless funerals and burials and use an abundant and never ending resource!!!!! This would end world hunger overnight and save our precious land from cemetary development..

  20. DrPizza says:

    “Ground beef could go up 4-5% this year from $2.87 a pound to $3.55 per”
    From $2.87 to $3.55 per pound is an increase of 23.7%

    Anyway, I’m glad my beef is grown locally where we’ve been largely unaffected by the midwest weather patterns. Porterhouses were $6.98 a pound last week, strip loins are $4.98 per pound this week. Boneless skinless chicken breast was $1.88 per pound. Ground turkey is “imported” from other states – that stuff is expensive and full of the crappy pieces of turkey. Ground chicken breast is just as good, thus $1.88 per pound, and a low fat substitute for beef in many recipes (meat in sauces, tacos, etc.) And, grilled chicken breast is a lot healthier than burgers (and tastier yet with some REAL cheese, not that bastardized form of “processed cheese” termed American “cheese.”

  21. kataisa says:

    Americans need to wean themselves off of red meat, anyway. Maybe the rise in beef costs will help cure our obesity problems as well.

    • Cor Aquilonis says:

      Yeah, ’cause the problem is people pigging out on expensive beef, not cheap grain products (soda, chips, cakes, sweetened cereals, pizza, etc., etc.)

      • HomerSimpson says:

        Of course, the REAL solution is to raise all of it to sky-high levels so the unwashed will just FOAD already.

        Whoops…there goes the plan. Guess somebody from the government has to come kill me now!

    • Libertas says:

      The only way this comment could be more retarded is if it came with a Moe Howard haircut and a fat tongue.

  22. Phil Keeps It Real [Consumerist] says:

    Seitan & tempeh fTw.

  23. Dallas_shopper says:

    Depending on what part of the animal has been ground up and what has been added to said burger, they can actually be less healthy than a beef burger. Some ground turkey has more fat in it per gram than beef does. Most ground turkey is a mix of dark and white meat, meaning it has quite a bit more fat in it than most people think it does. Ground turkey BREAST is the “healthy” ground turkey.

  24. physics2010 says:

    Gee it isn’t possible that speculators are doing with food what they’ve done with all of the other commodities. We were warned, and now we are seeing it.

  25. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    “Time to go vegetarian!”

    Yes, clearly we should all just ignore the fact that nature designed the human animal to be an omnivore because beef is going up in price.

  26. Denidil says:

    go vegetarian? are you kidding?

    i require food that is .. you know.. actually food. veggies are nice and all, but they’re not ALL of what the human body needs.

  27. crtrue says:

    Certainly I’m not the only one with a memory going back more than six months…this was an expected, predicted jump. During the droughts, it was stated that a lot of cattle were being slaughtered early to reduce the cost of feed / the availability thereof. Beef went down but it was warned to be a temporary drop, followed by a much larger jump. This would be the jump.

    The odd thing is, I don’t recall the drop.

  28. yabdor says:

    Uhhh…. $2.87 to $3.55 is quite a bit more than 4-5%. That’s about 24%.

  29. Spook Man says:

    Funny how I read in another article that exportation of American beef has RISEN by 11% too.