Beef may not be what’s for dinner

meat prices

– Amanda Ketchledge

Reno, NV- In the last year, the price of ground beef increased to $3.88 per pound and sirloin steak reached a record $7.69 per pound, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Never in our wildest dreams would we think this market would be as high as it is,” said Ron Terrell, president of the Nevada Cattleman’s Association.

Three years of a persistent drought have caused meat prices to soar. Cattle ranchers across the country are being forced to sell their herds due to price hikes in feed and cattle.

“The drought has impacted livestock industries extremely,” said Terrell. “Cattle ranchers are having to reduce their size (herds) to compensate for the rangeland and hay.”

Northern Nevada is one of the country’s most important regions for hay production. With hay acreage low due to the drought, it’s impacting the feed prices and the land upon which cattle graze. Prices for cattle are 40 percent more expensive than last year and because feeding them is now more expensive, ranchers have decreased production. The amount of meat available is minimal and prices are increasing as a result.

“The impacts of higher hog and cattle prices filter their way through into the grocery market where you start to see the consumer prices,” said Mike Helmar, research analyst for the University Center for Economic Development at the University of Nevada, Reno.

The ripple effect makes it all the way to the kitchen table, with the price of beef and veal rising 10.4 percent from June 2013. Pork has risen 12 percent while poultry has only seen an increase of 1.7 percent from last year, according to the Consumer Price Index from June 2014.

During the non-holiday season, beef prices typically fall, but consumers aren’t noticing that drop in their wallets.

“There’s only so much money people will pay for a piece of meat if the quality is there, and regardless, people will cutback,” said Steve Cartinella, manager of Blue Ribbon Meats.

Although some prices on the menu at Blue Ribbon Meats have risen since they opened four years ago, business hasn’t declined.

“They’ll end up buying a few items and be back the next week,” said Cartinella. “The quality is where we have it here.”

Cartinella says customers opt to buy different types of meat to accommodate for the high prices of specialty items such as prime rib, steak, and beef.

“Not just at restaurants, even at home they’ll cook more chicken or chicken product,” said Helmar. “There are some things that they can do with their budget to kind of smooth out the spikes in specific products.”

Eating a little less, switching the kind of meat consumed, or budgeting can help the sticker shock at the grocery store.

It’s too early to predict how much more expensive meat may become if the drought persists in Nevada and other Western states. Experts say prices will continue to rise for at least another year or two before consumers start to see a decline.

For more information on living with drought, please visit the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension website:

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