Friday, August 1, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Drought sends beef prices soaring, with no relief in sight

Beef prices

Butcher Jay Douglas prepares a beef round roast at Bunzel's Meat Market, Feb. 28, 2014. (Gary Porter/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/MCT)

Next time you bite into a big, juicy hamburger, don’t be surprised if it bites back — at your bank account.

Unrelenting drought across large swaths of the Great Plains, Texas and California has led to the smallest U.S. cattle herd since 1951, shrinking the supply of beef. That has sent prices higher for everything from rump roasts to rib-eyes.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the average retail price per pound for fresh beef in January was $5.04, the highest price ever on records that date back to 1987.

From grocers to meat markets to restaurants, a whole lot of folks are watching the situation carefully.

“Everybody’s kind of worried about it,” said Matthew Bayer, president of the Wisconsin Association of Meat Processors and owner of Country Fresh Meats in Weston, Wis. “I don’t see them (beef prices) going down.”

This time of the year, beef prices often fall during what amounts to a lull between the holidays and the beginning of outdoor grilling season, said Chip Bunzel, third-generation co-owner of Bunzel’s Old-Fashioned Meat Market in Milwaukee.

But this year, “Beef really didn’t drop much since the holidays,” Bunzel said, and that sent the price of everything from beef short ribs to ground chuck higher.

“Even the (beef) dog bones, those have gone up quite a bit,” he said. “We used to give those away.”

Like consumers, Bunzel said he feels the squeeze.

“It’s hard because your income isn’t going up as fast as the products are going up,” he said. “Everybody complains about it. It’s like gasoline. Gas goes up and everybody complains about it, but they still use it. You have to still put gas in your car, and you still have to eat.”

So do cattle — and there’s the rub.

When a calf is born on a ranch, it is usually put out to graze on grass and pastureland. When it doesn’t rain, those pastures dry up. Without grass, the animals have to be fed something else.

“They can’t eat wind, water and scenery,” said John Freitag, executive director of the Wisconsin Beef Council in Madison.

But other feed types of late have been extremely expensive, as prices of feed grains — primarily corn — soared because of reduced supplies brought on by drought.

“Hay prices are just going through the roof,” said Kevin Kester, a fifth-generation rancher whose operation covers 22,000 acres in central California.

As a result, cattle producers have been selling off their animals because they can’t afford to feed them. In Texas and Oklahoma alone, “There’s a million-plus head of cattle that aren’t here anymore,” Freitag said. “Some guys just decided it was easier to plant corn than it was to raise or feed cattle.”

All the beef that hit the market when those herds were culled theoretically should have driven prices lower. Yet that didn’t happen, USDA data show, as demand for beef and sources of protein around the world has soared.

“The growth of the middle class in developing countries probably has more to do with the increase in demand and related prices than anything else,” said Jeff Sindelar, an associate professor who studies the meat industry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In other words, more people around the world can now afford to have a steak or burger while there are fewer animals to meet that demand. The result has been predictable.

“The cost of meat has gone up significantly — 30-40 percent and in some cases 50 percent — in the past five to seven years,” Sindelar said.

There are signs that the beef cattle herd may be coming back, Freitag said, and heavy rain fell late last week in California.

“I’m scratching and clawing and trying to hang on and see what Mother Nature brings us over the next 60 days,” Kester said. “It might be a very short-term relief for three or four weeks.”

The U.S. Drought Monitor project at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln said last week that dry conditions have intensified in the Great Plains, from Nebraska to Texas.

According to the USDA, more than half the total value of U.S. sales of cattle comes from five states: Texas, Nebraska, Kansas, California and Oklahoma. Portions of each of those states are still experiencing severe to exceptional drought conditions.

“Roughly the southern half of the Great Plains region is facing a potential fourth consecutive summer of drought,” according to the Drought Monitor report.

In Texas, more than half the state’s range land and pastures were rated very poor to poor as of Feb. 23.

Complicating the situation: Even when conditions improve, it will take time to replenish beef cattle supplies. “From conception to plate is three years,” Freitag said.

Mcclatchy-Tribune News Service

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 1 comment

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

‘Boyhood’ mature on music, moments

By Nick DeCicco | From Page: B1

 
Mr. Clean: Dennis Regan offers friendly jokes, with a bite

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

Gemstones shine at Solano County Fair

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Trifecta: ‘The Who’s Tommy’ third play in three months

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Japan Summerfest returns this month

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
Solano Tea Party Patriots schedule meet

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Details limited after shooting leaves 1 with injuries

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

Highway 12 to close overnight in Jameson Canyon

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A4

 
Air district calls Spare the Air alert

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A4

Vallejo police arrest suspect in shooting death

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
Fairfield man settles suit against Raley’s

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A4

Stabbing victim dies in Vacaville

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A5

 
Fairfield police log: July 30, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Suisun City police log: July 30, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
.

US / World

Abbas seeks broad support for war crimes charges

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
US, UN announce deal on 72-hour Gaza cease-fire

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1 | Gallery

As US job market strengthens, many don’t feel it

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Dow plunges as multiple worries vex investors

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Wisconsin Supreme Court upholds 2011 union law

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
A look at the impact of Wisconsin’s union law

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

Union: California prison staff told to fake checks

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Candidate goes homeless to show economic gap

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5 | Gallery

California ex-mayor sentenced in corruption case

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Californians to see increase in health plan costs

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Appellate court overturns high-speed rail rulings

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Report: Secrecy enveloped Bay Bridge construction

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Yosemite wildfire weakened, evacuations to end

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
US warns against traveling to Ebola-hit countries

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Congress races to finish VA, highway bills

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
See-through mice reveal details of inner anatomy

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

CIA spied on Senate, internal review finds

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Demoted worker shoots CEO, kills self in Chicago

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

NASA to test making rocket fuel ingredient on Mars

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Investigators reach Ukraine jet wreckage site

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7 | Gallery

.

Opinion

Editorial Cartoons: Aug. 1, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

 
To err is human – but not in print

By Bud Stevenson | From Page: A11

Why do so many Americans support Hamas

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11

 
Nice guy becomes House majority leader

By Dan Walters | From Page: A11

Should union organizing be a civil right?

By Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis | From Page: A11

 
.

Living

Today in History for Aug. 1, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Aug. 1, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

My irregular monthly cycles were a symptom of cancer, not menopause

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

 
Horoscopes for Aug. 1, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

.

Entertainment

Week in preview Aug. 1-7, 2014

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

 
Review: Boseman drips with charisma as James Brown

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

‘Godfather of Makeup’ Dick Smith dead at 92

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Starz’ ‘Outlander’ brings novels to life vibrantly

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Dionne Warwick knows her way to San Jose

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Entertainment calendar Aug. 1, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: B4

 
‘Sharknado 2′ whipped up storm of viewers, tweets

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
.

Sports

Chekwa taking reps with Raiders while Hayden sits

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
Safety Bethea finding a groove with new 49ers team

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

Expos fall short in 10-9 loss to Leghorns

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B7

 
A’s deal Tommy Milone to Twins for Sam Fuld

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

A’s get Lester, Gomes from Red Sox for Cespedes

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
Another decent start for Woods at Firestone

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

Ravens’ Rice: His actions ‘totally inexcusable’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Dustin Johnson takes leave of absence from golf

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Commonwealth Games athlete convicted for assault on rival

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Lynch ends holdout, arrives at Seahawks camp

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Nick Watney leads PGA Barracuda Championship

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Rich get richer: Rays’ Price traded to Tigers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

Dumdumaya takes third in World Junior/Junior Olympic tourney

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B8

 
AP Source: Trump advances in Bills sale process

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Mudcats get 15-7 win in Auburn Classic

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B8

 
Phelps to compete in 4 events at US nationals

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Signups for Friday, Aug. 1, 2014

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B9

 
Derrick Brooks set standard for NFL linebackers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9 | Gallery

.

Business

Daimler launches new version of tiny Smart car

By The Associated Press | From Page: C1

 
Iliad of France makes surprise bid for T-Mobile US

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

In San Francisco real estate, $1M won’t buy much

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
Facebook’s Internet.org expands in Zambia

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

Debit overdraft fees often exceed cost of purchase

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
Panasonic, Tesla to build big US battery plant

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

SeaWorld, Southwest Airlines ending partnership

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
Target taps outsider as CEO for needed shakeup

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

.

Obituaries

Clifford C. Hemler

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
.

Comics

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9