With record high feed costs, essentially record high fuel costs, and a high demand and short supply of beef, consumers are seeing high prices at the meat counter. Insiders in the beef industry are beginning to ask what it will take for beef producers to start to retain some heifers to rebuild the national beef herd.
“Our concern is, will beef prices get too high? Obviously, you’re trying to keep people in the beef category and you get to this glass ceiling in a lot of instances and there are trade-offs. What am I going to put on the table tonight, whether it’s beef, chicken, pork, or whatever?”
“We’ll keep shrinking the cow herd until those prices are high enough to offset the costs, and we’re probably not there yet.”
“If we’re going to maintain the position of U.S. beef not only here in the U.S., but around the world, we’re going to have to look at increasing our herd size in the future.”
Discussions like this are taking place within the beef industry across the United States. Richard Wortham is executive vice-president of the Texas Beef Council.
“To be quite honest with you, I don’t know that we’ll ever get back to the cow numbers that we saw ten, fifteen years ago, but we do need to increase from where we are right now.”
David Anderson is a livestock economist for Texas Agrilife Extension.
“We have a cattle feeding sector that was really built on a lot more cattle numbers than we have today. We’ll lose some feed lot operations out of this simply because the costs are so high relative to what they can produce.”
Wortham is optimistic.
“I truly am bullish on in long term beef demand around the world because in the next 20, 30, or 40 years you’re gonna add another 3 billion people. Ninety-six percent of the world lives outside the U.S. and somebody’s gonna feed them, and I hope that’s U.S. beef producers.”
I’m Ashley Batey, tracing the journey our food makes from the ranch to our tables, From The Ground Up.