Beef Prices Hit Record Highs

Grilling season is upon us but those steaks and hamburgers you'll be throwing on the grill this year will also come with a side dish of sticker shock.

Beef prices are the highest they have been in 30 years.

Local cattle rancher Larry Olberding Jr. said  we are seeing these record high prices for two reasons.

The drought in the midwest in 2012, and a more demand from foreign countries for american beef.

Olberding said beef is setting record prices every week because we are just now feeling the effects of the 2012 drought.

"The feed that was there was very expensive so people sold off their herds and the total cow herd has dropped down to 1950 levels," said Olberding.    

He said we are just now feeling the effects of ranchers selling their herds because it's about a two year process from conception to consumption.

"All those cows that were sold then didn't have babies in 2013," said Olberding.

He said there are less cows but there is also a greater demand for exports.

Olberding said many of the markets US  ranchers export to were closed in 2003 with the outbreak of mad cow, but now they are all back open and demanding beef.

"Japan was a tough market to lose and now it's back and back fully," siad Olberdiing.

Olberding said he sold a calf for $1.72 a pound in November, and then sold one roughly the same size last week for $2.10 a pound.

He admits there is some talk within the industry of prices getting too high.

"There is some nervousness to at what degree do you drive the consumer away to another protein."

Heather Padberg said when she was grocery shopping yesterday she decided to buy chicken instead of beef after seeing the price. 

"I had a budget to go with so to provide enough meals for my family I choose chicken over the steaks," said Padberg.

El Fat Cat Grill owner Felix Sanchez said his gross profit has been taking a hit because of beef prices, but he is hesitant to raise his prices.

"You really can't raise your prices and put it on the customer because then they aren't stopping by, so you have to take it and hope it goes down, " said Sanchez.

Olberding said Memorial day is the biggest beef consumption day on the calendar, and after that we could see prices drop a little but they probably won't ever go back to where they used to be.

"It's like gas prices or anything else. Once you hit new levels you might go back a little bit but I don't think we are ever going to see 99 cent hamburgers again," said Olberding. 

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