Beef Prices Hit All-Time High

The price of wholesale beef hit an all-time high on Friday, and there are no signals that the cost will decline this year. The news is certainly disappointing for backyard cooks hoping to fire up the grill for cheap this summer.

The price will likely dissuade outdoor chefs from cooking as much as they want to. The price of beef alone is up at least five percent this year, not to mention the cost of buns as well.

Once all the fixings are counted, from brisket and chicken to coleslaw and salad, the cost of a backyard barbecue has doubled from just a few years ago. Jim Early, founder and president of the North Carolina Barbecue Society, added, “The only thing that stayed the same is cabbage.”

There are several causes for the increase in beef prices, which have slowly been edging higher and higher. The wholesale price of USDA beef reached $201.68 per 100 pounds on Friday.

The previous high of $201.18 was set in October 2003. At that time, all Canadian beef imports were prohibited after the first confirmed case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy — also known as mad cow disease.

But now it’s a different scenario. Cattle producers were hit hard by poor pasture conditions, a bad hay crop, and drought in the Southern Plains. Late freezing weather also played a part. Because of these reasons, the US cattle and calf herd is at its lowest level since 1952.

And the problems are expected to continue until early 2014. Until then, beef prices are expected to remain high, especially for better cuts of meat. Early added that corn prices are a factor as well, because the use of corn ultimately results in a better tasting barbecue if the kernels are mixed into the cow’s diet. He explained, “That’s what they feed to the cows for the white fat, which is what we want. If they feed them $8 corn, that’s going to run our prices up.”

But not everyone will see their beef prices go up, especially if they get their meat from factory-raised cows. Factories often rely on growth hormones to speed up their fattening process and cut other costs.

[Image via ShutterStock]