After long periods of drought in many parts of the country coupled with crippling blizzards over the winter, ranches are posting the lowest cattle numbers in a very long time. Heading into 2014, the numbers were the lowest since 1951.

Click on the chart below from The Bureau of Labor Statistics of the price of beef per pound from January 2004-January 2014: 

beef chart

The first question to many is: “How does this affect me?” The answer is startling yet simple: It will affect your wallet, and more importantly, will continue to do so for the next few years. The most recent report from the Department of Agriculture put the average retail price for beef at $5.04 per pound, up more than $0.50 in 2 years and also making it the highest price ever recorded in the industry. You will continue to see retail prices rise from your local supermarket to your favorite restaurant; from your delicately crafted hamburger to that exquisite filet mignon.

Most experts are predicting a 7-8 percent increase in each of the next few years, but many others are skeptical, noting that the number could rise to as high as 10-12 percent.

Because it takes a longer time for cattle to be ready for slaughter (as opposed to poultry, for example) prices are expected to remain high through 2015-2016; any growth to herds will not translate to an increase in supply for a few years.

This means some Americans are not looking at beef as “what’s for dinner” anymore, instead opting for cheaper proteins such as chicken and pork. Most experts agree that if the pork and chicken industry can meet the increase in demands it could actually decrease the price of both, making beef appear only that much more expensive..

This unpredictability and price increases present a challenge for caterers, as we are planning events 1-2 years in advance. A Thyme to Cook is continually watching and responding to the ever-changing market and will update our clients with any necessary price adjustments.

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