Those of you who listen to the Meatgistics Podcast will know that we have been disgussing the increase in Beef prices for quite a long time now. During Covid - 19 lock downs the price of steak and ground beef began dramatically increasing, and we have seen only short periods relief on that front. The chart below from the USDA shows the Weekly comprehensive beef cutout values. Cut out values are the estimated values for beef carcasses for a given grade on any given day. Look at that 2020 line, it is near vertical starting in late April. For those of us who eat a lot of steak we saw this at the butcher shop or grocery store.
Trouble coming in Beef supply?
Those of you who listen to the Meatgistics Podcast will know that Austin and Jon have been discussing the increase in beef prices for quite a long time now. During Covid - 19 lock downs the price of steak and ground beef began dramatically increasing and we have seen only short periods relief on that front. The chart above from the USDA shows the weekly comprehensive beef cutout values. Cutout values are the estimated values for beef carcasses for a given grade on any given day. Look at that 2020 line, it is near vertical starting in late April. For those of us who eat a lot of steak we saw this at the butcher shop or grocery store.
The following chart from the USDA shows the decrease in the number of cattle in the US supply. Now, as numbers decreased the overall weight going to market increased as we implemented different feed procedures and improved the breeding stock to select for larger animals. While that has been going on for the last 50 years something is happening right now that is alarming. Right now many of the areas of this country that raise the majority of cattle are going through a very bad drought. You might have seen the news last month about the 2,000 head that died in Kansas due to extreme heat and drought, well in Texas cattle herders are currently liquidating their stock and taking a large number of cattle to slaughter early.
So, what could this mean for consumers?
In the short-term increased slaughter could see a stabilization, or even a drop in prices for steak for consumers as supply will increase. However, this will be temporary, once that increase has made its way through the supply chain, we could be looking at severe decrease in supply, meaning prices will sky rocket. Look at the chart below from the USDA that shows what happened to beef prices in 2013 and 2014 vs the previous 5-year average. Well, back in 2013 we were in a multi-year drought that caused ranchers to take their cattle to slaughter early (Sources, NPR Why You'll Be Paying More For Beef All This Year : The Salt : NPR and BEEF Magazine 2013 Setting Up For Higher Cattle Prices (beefmagazine.com)) You can't blame them, their choices were either get .70 on the dollar right then, or risk getting nothing if the drought continued and their herds were decimated. It can take 3-4 years to raise a cattle for slaughter, so when we see a large increase in current slaughter one year, we need to prepare for cost increases in the future.
What can you do?
If you decide to take advantage of bulk buying discounts for meat, like ordering a half, or if your local butcher shop has a sale, this could benefit you in two ways. First, if you have a freezer stocked with beef that you bought at a lower price point you will not need to pay the increased prices at the grocery store. Second, by noyy having to buy the meat while the price is increased you will be lowering demand for the product, meaning the price increase may be less as companies will see that the market will not bear those prices.
How can you take advantage of any lower prices?
There are 2 items that most households should invest in if they do not already own one. Those are a large deep freezer and a Vacuum Sealer. The vacuum sealer will keep your uncooked meat (and other food items) safe for long term storage, the USDA says that frozen beef will remain safe indefinitely How long can you freeze beef? (usda.gov)and while quality may start to degrade past a year, a vacuum sealer can increase that time, we have eaten beef that has been frozen for 3 years and with proper cooking it is still as delicious as what can be purchased from most grocery stores. Check out this article on Meatgistics on How to Reverse Sear a Steak for best results!