Cattle drought

Severe drought forcing mass slaughter

With a severe drought in the western United States and a mass slaughter of beef, beef prices are expected to rise, and meat producers are facing years of shortages due to natural disasters.

Suppliers from supermarkets to premium steakhouses warn consumers could face painful price hikes later this month — especially for premium meats.

Victor Corello, the director of New York City grocery chain Morton Williams stated, “We don’t know where prices end up, but they could return to 2020 levels.”

Covid forced packers to close, limiting supplies even as lockdown consumers clamored for beef, which is now just under $9 from over $12 during pandemic. Fillet mignon had risen to $18 a pound, compared to $14 now, according to Corello. It is still well above pre-pandemic levels in 2019, he added.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the price of ground feed was $5 a pound in June, not far from the June 2020 peak of $5.33. “We haven’t seen a price hike yet, but if the drought persists for the next few weeks, sellers are saying prices will go up,” said Joe Parisi, president of New York City supermarkets Gristedes and D’Agostinos. Be prepared for the worst.

Veteran restaurateur Charlie Palmer, who runs 16 restaurants, including five steakhouses, said he expects prime cut prices to rise about 5% to 10% by the end of the year. A $56 filet mignon could get him up to $61, and a $72 ribeye could get him up to $79. In response, the famous chef has already replaced some of the premium steaks on the menu with “secondary cuts” such as top sirloin, flatiron steak and so-called lifter meat. “There’s going to be steak on the menu that people haven’t heard of,” Palmer told The Post.

Meanwhile, Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse is weighing whether to increase the price of its $25 burgers and steak sandwiches to $28 or $29, owner Willie Degel told The Post. That’s after a Westside Manhattan meat shop added burgers and steak sandwiches to its dinner menu during the pandemic, offering cheaper options.

Related story: Meat inflation’s breaking records

Ranchers being forced to sell cattle early

The problem is that ranchers are unable to feed all the cows and steers in their herds because the grasslands have dried up here in the worst drought conditions in a decade. In June, in Kansas, he killed 2,000 cows from heat stress. In response, ranchers were forced to sell their livestock early, reducing the number of older cattle.

By some estimates, the U.S. beef herd could decline by up to 20% if the ranching industry culled older calf-producing cows. “The impact of fewer cows giving birth to calves is that the price of beef will be higher in the next few years,” said Peter Bozzo, vice president of Chef’s Warehouse, a food supplier to fine dining restaurants.

Nebraska rancher Brenda Masek said in April she was forced to ditch an old cow on her Nebraska ranch, Bestol & Masek, for the first time in a decade.

Related story: Beef prices surge and even more to come

Less grass and more grain means higher prices

Macek, who is also president of the Nebraska Cattlemen’s Association said, “Everybody sees their grass.” “We will continue to get beef for consumers. It takes 24 months to raise a cow, but premature slaughter is depleting the supply of especially good quality beef. Every month, cows are fed more grain, which grows into premium meat.

The war in Ukraine, which produces 40% of the world’s grain, is driving up the cost of livestock feed. According to industry data, the price of a bushel of corn is $1.25 higher than last year, about $7, and about $3 higher than in 2019.

“Wholesale beef prices are up 40 percent,” Kevin Lindgren, head of Bardot’s meat, seafood and poultry division, told The Post. “Consumers will switch from filet mignon to 8-ounce burgers, and we are already seeing that change.” Upscale suppliers to restaurants and gourmet grocers on the New York City Strip and porterhouses are paying him about $8 a pound for his steaks, according to Lindgren, and by 2023 he’ll have a pound of £1. per he expects to top $16. “General beef inflation could occur if herds drop to significantly lower levels,” said Daniel Romanoff, president of Bronx-based meat wholesaler Nebraskaland.

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Source: New York post

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