The extreme weather in the US has thinned the beef cattle herds to levels last seen in 1951, when there were about half as many mouths to feed in America. As a result, beef prices have hit an all-time high.
The retail value of all-fresh USDA choice-grade beef jumped to a record $5.28 a pound in February, up from $4.91 the same time a year ago. The same grade of beef cost $3.97 as recently as 2008.
These soaring beef prices are being blamed on years of drought throughout the western and southern US.
The dry weather has driven up the price of feed such as corn and hay to record highs, forcing many ranchers to sell off their cattle. That briefly created a glut of beef cows for slaughter that has now run dry … One reason why beef prices will take some time to ease: Calves require more than two years to gain enough weight for slaughter. And not every rancher will still have a herd to breed from after so much liquidation.
One of the places where this is expected to be most felt is the fast food burger chains, where some think the notion of dollar menus and value menus could become a thing of the past.