Sometimes you run across a story that just won’t quit. Such is the news that hamburger is soon to be as expensive as steak. Over the past month we’ve seen this story in the local evening news, the morning news, the weekend news, the national morning news, the Internet news, and in two newspapers. We’ve even heard it on the radio. We’re guessing it’s getting close to the time that our next burger will require a home equity loan. Maybe we should start from the beginning.
The news media and/or the cattle industry started priming us to expect higher beef prices last summer. The drought, which may or may not have already happened, was resulting in less prime grazing land and thus smaller, lighter beef cattle. Eventually that morphed into farmers were keeping less cattle so those that were grazing would be well fed. By the end of the year, as the well fed cattle made it to market, they weren’t as fattened up as they should have been and they sold off for less than expected. And that meant that our consumer prices had to go up to make the differences. In a nutshell.
Prices go up, prices go down. We know that when one is dealing with food that itself has to eat before it becomes food, whether livestock or agri-stock, variables such as the weather will create variables in the ultimate market price. Pigs went through the same pattern last year and that is why we now have $4.00-$5.00 per pound bacon. It doesn’t explain why the price of pork chops remained essentially unchanged. After all, it is the same pig.
Back to the cow. The most popular cut of beef is not cut but ground. Whether ground chuck, round, or mixed source, whether 85%, 93%, or 97% lean, Americans buy more ground beef than in any recognizable cut. Thus the headlines that hamburger is soon to as expensive as steak. Nobody said all beef prices are going up, just that ground beef is following the trail blazed by bacon. This makes us wonder once again that it is all the same cow, or steer, or whatever. How long before pot roast is out of reach of the average American family? Will filet mignon no longer be the center point of a celebratory dinner, giving way to Salisbury Steak?
Not to be outdone by the western cattle farmer, the eastern dairy cow farmer has now announced that due to our most recent bouts of inclement weather, the dairy industry is faced with less nourished dairy cows and we should expect a gallon of white milk to soon rival the price of a good white wine. Here too, less water means fewer cows and fewer cows mean less milk and nobody has suggested that butter, cheese, or Klondikes will also experience a sudden price increase. Only with the most common cow product will the dairy industry be milking the public. (Sorry.)
I suppose we’ll just have to wait things out. In the meantime have a breakfast of pricey bacon with a glass of pricey milk, a lunch of a pricey hamburger with a pricey milkshake, all wrapped up with a dinner of a pricey meatloaf and a cheap bottle of wine.
Or, we could have chicken. Seems the weather hasn’t bothered the poultry group much. Yet. But then, what’s it cost to feed them anyway, chicken feed?
Now, that’s what we think. Really. How ‘bout you?