Decrease in US cattle could mean you pay more for beef: Report

(NewsNation) — With 89.3 million head of cattle and calves on U.S. farms at the beginning of the year, United States cattle inventory is down 3%, according to a report published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

With only 28.9 million beef cows as of Jan. 1, this was the smallest herd size for that date in 61 years.

Analysts say this could mean beef-based products could get more expensive.

The issue? Severe drought, which has forced farmers to liquidate their cattle for a couple of years now. In 2021, the American Farm Bureau said, incredibly dry weather made 40% of farmers liquidate a portion of their herds, and experts expected that number to be higher in 2022. A tight labor market, which limited slaughtering at meatpacking plants, didn’t help matters.

Now, in 2023, beef prices are expected to rise, as not only do farms have fewer beef cows than in years past, but also, one of the smallest beef cow herds ever recorded, DTN livestock analyst ShayLe Stewart told Insider. The U.S. beef cow herd is now at the lowest level it’s been at since 1962, data showed.

“That’s a stark reality to stomach and a factor that should send the cattle market soaring,” Stewart said to Insider, adding, “Tight supplies amid strong demand beckon for prices to become stronger.”

Bloomberg notes that the drop in cattle wasn’t unexpected, and almost matched expectations from a survey put out by the publication. Still, according to the publication, there could be an even bigger decline in beef output in 2025 or 2026.

“We’re going to be dealing with some sharp beef-supply declines for the next three years straight and therefore higher beef prices,” Rich Nelson, chief strategist for commodity broker Allendale, told Reuters. “There will be no help in the coming years for the consumer.”

Reuters contributed to this story.


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