Most American Families Have Beef With Today’s Meat Prices…

It wasn’t long ago that you witnessed bare shelves in the meat aisle of the grocery store at the height of the pandemic… Is that memory still etched into your mind as it is in mine? 

Sometimes we could grab only one package of meat due to rationing. But more often than not, all we could ask was, “Where’s the beef?”

Well, now we have a different problem. One that is likely to get worse before it gets better. Meat sections at the supermarket are fuller than they used to be… But prices are outlandish. 

Wars overseas. Droughts the past couple of years slowing down cattle and chicken farms. Other extreme weather events disrupting the supply chain. They all add up to meat being far beyond many of our budgets.

Record-High Prices for Meat

Here’s a recent headline from the Fox News website. “Chicken prices hit record highs under Biden administration as U.S. inflation keeps beef, pork out of reach.” 

Ironically, Americans are expected to eat more chicken than ever before in the coming months. Why? Because beef and pork prices are even higher. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) predicts that beef consumption will drop to its lowest level in five years. That’s due to dwindling cattle supplies. Consumption of pork is already at its lowest level since 2015.

Both wholesale and retail prices for chicken have flown the coop. That applies to whole chickens, bone-in legs, and drumsticks.

Now, instead of saying, “Where’s the beef?”, consumers are asking, “Where’s the relief? How can I put meat on the table for my family at these prices?” 

Fewer Chickens Available 

One of the reasons chicken prices are rising is because several companies including Tyson have cut poultry production. 

The Covid impact is still being felt. Tyson closed six of its U.S. plants – with a total of 4,700 employees – to reduce their costs. 

The facilities that hatch chicken eggs are placing fewer eggs in incubators. That’s according to U.S. government data.

And, of course, that means fewer chickens will be available for meat production in the near future. Last year there were more chickens available than Tyson and other companies could sell. 

An increased demand for chicken could change that over time. And that demand will probably come from consumers who realize they can’t afford beef and pork anymore.

Smallest Cattle Herds in Decades

According to CNBC, retail beef prices in the U.S. are at record highs. That means you’re paying more for everything from burgers to steaks to steak tartare. 

They say the shrinking cattle supply is the main factor in these price increases. And they don’t expect it to ease up any time soon. 

A Wells Fargo analyst said cattle herds have been reduced to their “smallest number in decades.” 

Long-term droughts in key cattle ranching states including Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma are to blame. That’s according to those who watch the markets closely.

Beef Is Shedding 180 Million Pounds

The USDA says that retail beef prices are averaging about $8 per pound these days. In addition to fewer cattle being available due to drought, input costs have risen.

Those input costs include labor and transportation. As well as increased packaging costs.

Is there light at the end of the tunnel? If so, it’s too far away to see. The USDA reported in September that beef production for the remainder of this year will decline by 180 million pounds.

Cattlemen are holding onto cows longer in order to rebuild their herds. That results in a lower supply of cattle to provide beef.

Less Hay Means Thinner Cattle

No matter who does the analyzing, it always comes back to drought as the main culprit.

Hay is normally a water-intensive crop used to feed cattle. But droughts year after year brought hay stocks last year to their lowest levels since 1954. The average farm had 13% less hay than the previous year.

One analyst said the demand for beef will far exceed the supply. And that always means higher prices. He added that prices are likely to be at or near record levels for the next 18 months.

We’ll see those higher prices at the grocery store, at butcher shops, and in restaurants. The Texas Roadhouse restaurant chain, for example, just announced its second price increase of the year.

The chain is expected to place a higher emphasis on its to-go business. That will reduce its staffing costs. But their business is thriving. They’re expected to open at least 25 new locations in the near future. In other words, it’s a sellers’ market.

That does not bode well for average consumers who just want to feed meat to their families. My advice is to look for ways to lock in good prices for beef and chicken that will last until you need it.

Then you won’t have to ask, “Where’s the beef?” It will be in your survival food stockpile.


  • Mary - November 19, 2023

    Good article but may I make a suggestion?
    Drought may be a contributing factor however, droughts have happened for ever. Would you consider adding to your reporting the extreme number of catastrophic fires (likely intentionally set) that have wiped out cattle and chicken farms over the last 3 years? Reducing cattle by the thousands and chickens/poultry by the millions? Not to mention, all the other food processing facilities that have been destroyed by same.
    Would you consider reporting on what the government is doing to cattle and chicken farmers to try and stop them from continuing to farm – both financially and under the guise of environmental protection?
    We’re not idiots. Not all of us, anyway. They just think we are.
    More thorough, honest and transparent reporting needs to be published so that those that are unaware of ALL the reasons meat is disappearing and becoming more expensive are divulged.
    Our unchecked government is out to control us. The truth needs to be told. Mainstream media won’t report it. Will you?
    Thank you.

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