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American ranchers blame drought for higher meat prices at grocery stores


Cattle farmers have been experiencing a number of the worst drought conditions ever. 

The bottom is hard for grazing, and lots of ranchers have needed to cull their herd since it’s more economical than feeding them. 

Fewer cows mean fewer calves and ultimately less meat within the years to follow. The USDA expects beef production next 12 months to drop by 1.9 billion kilos – a 7% decline. 

And consumers shopping at grocery stores have probably noticed their steaks and burgers are dearer. It’s a domino effect and experts say that trend could worsen within the years to come back.

The American Farm Bureau Federation reports drought conditions, particularly within the West and Southern Plains, are certainly one of the explanations that more heifers are entering the slaughter pipeline, which implies a smaller cattle inventory this 12 months and a smaller calf crop for 2023 and beyond.

Eight states have reported 50% or more pasture and rangeland as poor to very poor, the bureau said. Texas got here in with 91% rated as poor or very poor, followed by Arkansas at 72%. 

“The rise within the variety of heifers entering feed lots may be very necessary, because these females are the reproductive engine accountable for replacing the cattle inventory that’s lost to slaughter, death and other disappearance,” said economist Bernt Nelson with the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Consumers shopping at grocery stores have probably noticed their steaks and burgers are dearer due to domino effect.Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

And when drought causes pasture conditions to say no, heifers that might typically be kept for replacements are as an alternative being placed into feed lots, Nelson adds.

Searching for one more reason to fireplace up the grill this weekend? This could do it: it’s National Filet Mignon Day! However the weather — every part from heat to drought — is affecting meat production. And which means prices are going up. Mitch Willis, head chef and butcher from Dickson’s Farmstand Meats joins FOX Weather.

“More heifers being slaughtered means fewer heifers available to provide calves. Fewer calves mean a smaller cattle supply in 2023,” he said. 

The Diamond W Cattle Company in Acton, California, have 200 cows across 12,500 acres. Owner Mike Williams said he’s running a couple of third of the variety of cattle that they’d normally run on the ranch if there was normal rainfall. 

Reports say eight states have 50% or more pasture and rangeland as poor to very poor.Reports say eight states have 50% or more pasture and rangeland as poor to very poor.FOX Weather

“Due to the severity of the drought, that’s pretty common across the West,” Williams said. “Numerous ranchers are having to cut back or liquidate their herds since the input costs are so high.”

Feed and transportation costs are also increasing which is cutting into the underside line.

“Farmers are having to make decisions about methods to handle increased input costs concurrently drought conditions,” Nelson said.

“Numerous these other mitigation measures a rancher might use aren’t available to them, so the numbers of the whole cattle are down, which makes the value of beef go up,” Williams adds.

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