Gird Yourselves, Grill Masters: Beef Prices Have Hit An All-Time High

For those vegetarians or red meat abstainees out there, rest easy and only keep reading if you want to rub some bad news in your burger-loving friend’s face at the grill this summer: The price of wholesale beef is at an all-time high right now, which means costlier burgers, steaks and any other kind of cattle you’d throw on the fire.

NBC News says the price hit its highest point ever last week — at $201.68 per 100 pounds of a USDA cut of choice beef — and it doesn’t seem like it’ll decline at all this year. It’s gone up by about 5%, just enough to make it smart not only when grabbing a package of your everyday ground beef for a grilled burger, but especially with the finer cuts of meat.

The last time there was this kind of uptick, it was because Canadian beef imports were put on hold over fears of mad cow disease in 2003. The industry rebounded then, however, and prices dropped again. But this time? Probably not gonna happen, say analysts.

Part of the reason is that U.S. cattle and calf herd is at the lowest level since 1952, as producers have been struggling with things like poor pasture conditions, droughts, and late freezing weather. Those factors will stick around until at least part way until 2014.

Until then, expect to shell out a little more cash at the grocery store if you’re used to buying a bit nicer meat, as opposed to factory-raised meats. Bigger farmers can ride out problems easier than smaller farmers, because they can cut corners with growth hormones and other things. The smaller farmers raising choice meats, however, get hit much harder by natural factors like droughts.

Many consumers might not even notice, however, as a senior analyst with Cattlefax tells NBC we’re eating less beef now than we were six years ago. Perhaps now’s the time to start researching vegetable kebob recipes or dumping more bread crumbs in the burgers.

Bad news at the grill as beef prices hit all-time high [NBC News]