Beef Prices Hit All-Time Highs In U.S. Just As Grilling Season Comes Within Reach

It’s all so clear, in the dream: I can see the smoke rising from the grill, hear the sizzle of juicy steaks and almost smell the delicious aroma of chargrilled meat wafting on the warm air. And while warmer weather might be just within our grasp, the beef part of that winter fever dream will come at a higher cost than in the past.

Beef prices are at all-time high prices in the U.S. this year and there’s no sign of relief soon, experts tell the Los Angeles Times.

“We’ve seen strong prices before but nothing this extreme,” said a commodities broker for Archer Financial Services in Chicago. “This is really new territory.”

Extreme weather has brought down cattle populations to the lowest level since 1951, when there were about half as many people to feed in America as there are now. Years of drought throughout the western and southern U.S. have taken their toll, driving up the cost of feed and forcing some ranchers to sell of their cattle. And now there are 87.7 million cattle left, the lowest number since 1951.

In February, the price of “all-fresh” USDA choice-grade beef jumped to a record $5.28 a pound, when it had gone for $4.91 a year ago.

The spiking prices are hitting all parts of the beef supply chain, all the way down the line until it gets to the shoppers at grocery stores.

“We’re dealing with chronically low herds,” said Richard Volpe, an economist for the USDA. “Beef prices should remain at near-record highs this year and into 2015.”

I’m going to hold onto you, steak dream. But it might take some penny-pinching to make it a reality.

Beef prices hit all-time high in U.S. [Los Angeles Times]