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MailTribune.com
  • Various factors push beef prices up

  • The TV news media are reporting that the drought is increasing the prices for meat. They say the drought is making hay more costly to cattle ranchers, therefore the ranchers are sending more of their cattle to slaughter. But that would increase the supply of meat and would thus, logically, tend to reduce the prices of meat. I don't understand the contradictory rationale. Could you please explain that apparent contradiction?
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  • The TV news media are reporting that the drought is increasing the prices for meat. They say the drought is making hay more costly to cattle ranchers, therefore the ranchers are sending more of their cattle to slaughter. But that would increase the supply of meat and would thus, logically, tend to reduce the prices of meat. I don't understand the contradictory rationale. Could you please explain that apparent contradiction?
    — Fred Fleetwood,Trail, Oregon
    The rising cost of cattle is due to a host of factors, not just the current drought.
    According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the total number of cattle and calves in the nation is at its lowest number since 1951. And the situation isn't likely to change anytime soon, since the number of calves born in 2013 was at its lowest level since 1949.
    That has pushed beef prices to record highs this year.
    The drop-off in cattle numbers began in 2007.
    Various droughts in the country have caused the price of grain and hay fed to cattle to rise, leading ranchers to cut back on breeding and to sell off animals. In recent years, ranchers also culled hundreds of thousands of cattle because of severe drought in states such as Texas and Oklahoma.
    Ranchers who want to ramp up their beef production often face higher prices for cows that can bear calves.
    Meanwhile, America — the largest beef producer in the world — is exporting more beef as other nations, especially in Asia, increase their meat consumption.
    Analysts predict beef prices will continue to rise in the foreseeable future.
    Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.
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