“Consumers are just going to have to budget more money for food,” says Ronald Plain, a professor of agricultural economics at the University of Missouri. “Eating isn’t really something that people can give up, and there’s not much you can do about the prices.”
Meat prices are up across the board thanks to several factors, including diminished cattle herds; a disease problem among hog farmers; and increased poultry feed costs reflecting higher commodity costs for corn and soybeans. In addition, a record drought in California has pushed up fruit and vegetable prices.
Retail beef prices are at or near inflation-adjusted record highs because of a year-long supply problem stemming from severe droughts in the southern plain in 2011 and the Midwest in 2012. While farmers are working on increasing the size of their herds, such efforts take several years, and the current cattle population remains at its lowest level since 1951, Plain says.
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