Consumers start to feel pinch of high beef prices

HAYSVILLE, Kansas – Consumers and meat providers alike are starting to feel the effects of high beef prices.

“You have little increases here and there, but nothing like they are right now,” said Chris Kiefer, owner of EZ Choice Meats, a home-delivery service in Haysville.

Kiefer says she’s done everything she can to keep prices affordable for consumers.

“In fact, we’ve taken money out of our savings so we can hold down the prices for our customers, because we’ve been in business 17 years this May, and we’ve always tried to carry the best product there is out there,” she said.

Her suppliers have increased their prices between 15 and 20 percent, but customer demand for her business is still high, as consumers say they are noticing lower-quality meats being sold at stores to keep prices relatively low.

“We don’t want to do that, we want to keep our product the same as it’s always been, as long as we can without passing the big gouge to our customers that the suppliers are to us,” Kiefer said.

According to the USDA, the nationwide average price of retail beef hit an all-time high in January of $5.04 a pound, the latest month for which data is available. Experts say consumers should start getting used to higher prices.

“We could see anywhere from a five to eight percent increase over about the next six months and it could escalate even higher than that,” KSN ag expert John Jenkinson said.

The price jump is the result of a series of events that started in 2012. A drought through much of the country dramatically increased the price of corn, which is the main ingredient used to feed cows. That made it too costly for ranchers to feed cows, prompting them to sell off much of their herds. Now, the head count of cattle in the US is at its lowest point since 1951.

“They sold off the herds and dwindled the supply of cattle in the supply chain, and now we’re starting to see the results and effects of that dip in supply,” Jenkinson said.

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