May 8, 2014 7:36 pm

Beef prices continue to soar

LETHBRIDGE- A trip to the meat counter is stopping some shoppers in their tracks, as the price of beef continues to soar.

“In all facets in every end of the cattle industry, it’s the highest that it’s ever been in modern day history. We’ve never seen prices like this”, says Bob Balog, a long-time cattlemen.

Balog has been in the industry his entire life both as a producer and as a business man.

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He says during BSE friends and customers were pushed out of the industry, and the next generation has been discouraged to get into the business, “We’re finally after those tough, tough years established a new level. This new level is a long time coming, it’s very deserving and most importantly it had to come. If this would not have happened with these prices going up even more people, even a huge percentage would have gotten right out of the livestock/cattle industry.”

But, there are downsides to the “boom” producers are feeling. Restaurants with beef on the menu are paying more, and that’s hitting their bottom line.

Julio Motte with Café Verde uses up to 45 pounds of beef a week. He has had to really think over his options when it comes to what type of meats to serve, “I was thinking to cut beef for a little while, only offer chicken and pork in here but because a lot of people ask for beef I say we continue with beef.”

Anyone looking to buy beef is asking if or when the market will level out.

“We are  going to see these prices stay. They’re going to stay because we have, in north America the lowest numbers of cattle that we have ever seen,” adds Balog.

Canadian beef cattle inventory has decreased by 25 percent since 2005, the U.S. cattle inventory is down 11 per cent. Researchers say there are a number of factors in why herds are dwindling around the world.

“Everything from high feed costs to regional drought in major producing areas and country of origin labeling and this has resulted in producers liquidating the herd,” states Brenna Grant with the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.

With supply and demand in favour of farmers and ranchers, it leaves those who have experienced the highs and lows on edge.

“Anyone who lived through BSE is asking if prices can go down. Yes, anything that goes up can come down,” warns Balog.

Just two years ago a cow calf pair was selling for $1,500 dollars, now they are selling for double that price.

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