The drought has wreaked havoc on many facets of Texas life: farming, pecan trees, even hunting. It’s also been hell for the state’s cattle industry: 600,000 cows were sold off as grazing land dried up and feed prices soared. Today, the Texas Agrilife Extension released its forecast for cattle prices in 2012, and not surprisingly, they are going to be high.
Because there are fewer cows in Texas, there are fewer calves, which means a tighter market and higher prices. The Agrilife Extension reports a twelve percent decline this year in beef cattle nationally, “the second largest decline in history since 1934-1935 (eighteen percent), as 550,000 head of cows were sold off during that time.” Another bad year was 1996, when 400,000 cows were sold off or died during a drought. For next year, beef production is predicted to be down four percent.
What does this mean for your dinner table? Well, beef is going to cost more, especially the good stuff. There’s a “growing demand” for choice beef over select (two of the USDA grades of beef), according to Dr. David Anderson, AgriLife Extension livestock economist. Wal-Mart is selling more choice beef, adding to the demand.
Beginning with the recession in 2008, hamburger sales went up as consumers tried to “stretch their dollar,” Anderson said in the report. “As a result, hamburger, chuck and rounds have reached record prices.” But he also says people are buying more steaks, so “perhaps the economy is not as bad as some might think.” Bottom line: whether it’s a royale with cheese or a Texas ribeye, expect to pay more for both in the future because of the drought.