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Low cattle supply in 2012 is expected to drive beef prices up for the second year in a row.
America's meat of choice may now hit consumers' wallets a bit harder after the Agriculture Department announced Friday that US cattle supplies are at a 60-year low.
The Department of Agriculture reported 91 million cattle in the US – the lowest level since 1952. The record low supply will most likely increase prices by 5 percent. Prices for beef has already risen by 10 percent in 2011.
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The falling dollar, which made US shipments less expensive for foreign buyers, attributed to the 22 percent spike in US beef exports. Live cattle prices hit a record $1.26 a pound last week, which is up 20 percent from last year.
The most severe drought in more than half a century last year left ranchers in Texas, Oklahoma and other states with meager supplies of grass and water to feed their cattle. Many animals were sold to feedlots or slaughterhouses.
The crisis added to a long-term trend of ranchers thinning their herds because of the soaring price of corn — a primary feedstock for cattle — rising property costs and increased competition for land with corn, soybeans and other crops, says Kevin Good, a senior analyst at research firm CattleFax.