Search Results for: beef prices

Are Americans Eating Less Beef Because Of High Beef Prices?

**Updated: May 20, 2015**

Myth: The price of beef has made people eat less beef.

The Facts: Consumers are seeing higher food prices when shopping and dining out, but despite the increased cost of beef, all of the beef being produced in the U.S. is being purchased. Consumers are buying the entire inventory of delicious steaks, roasts and ground beef, even at higher prices.

This shows us that beef demand is high. What do we mean by that? Demand refers to consumer preference and desirability for a good, in this case beef. Demand is calculated by economists using a demand index which takes into account a consumers’ willingness to purchase a product based on its price and their income. In beef’s case, prices have gone up, while consumer incomes haven’t. Yet, consumers continue to purchase beef despite its higher price, which is an indicator of strong demand for beef. This is counterintuitive to what you typically see in demand. Consumers are usually willing to purchase less of a good as the price increases and more as price decreases.

To put it simply, demand is desire, and consumer desire for beef is high. In fact, demand has remained strong throughout the latest recession and one of the tightest beef supplies in history, increasing around seven percent in the past year.

Consumers are continuing to eat beef – 91 percent of consumers eat beef monthly and 35 percent eat beef three or more times a week – and the majority (84 percent) plan to consume even more beef, because they love the taste.  Almost 20 percent of consumers say they are eating more beef compared to a year ago. Two thirds say they’re eating about the same.[1]

Americans love beef, and sales show they believe it’s a high quality protein that’s worth it. In fact, a recent survey showed consumers were willing to pay $8.02 per pound for a steak, and only $5.59 for a chicken breast and $3.97 for a pork chop.[2]

Grilling season presents consumers the opportunity to cash in on their cravings. Almost half of consumers (46.3 percent) are looking forward to grilling beef this summer – more than double the desire to grill any other (including less expensive) protein options.[3]

For more information on demand, visit these resources:

[1] Consumer Beef Index, funded by the Beef Checkoff Program, March 2015
[2] Oklahoma State University’s Food Demand Survey, April 2015
[3] Consumer Google Survey, funded by the Beef Checkoff Program, May 9-11, 2015

USDA Chief Economist: “Beef demand is strong; there is no question about that.”

Dr. Joseph Glauber, Chief Economist, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture

Dr. Joseph Glauber, Former Chief Economist, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture

This is a topic of discussion within the beef industry. The following article does not necessarily represent the opinion of the Beef Checkoff. The following is a transcript from a conversation on April 16, 2014 with Dr. Glauber about beef prices. NOTE: Dr. Glauber retired from the USDA at the end of 2014. 

Dr. Glauber, to begin, please tell us about the role of the Office of the Chief Economist within the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The office of the Office of the Chief Economist (OCE) advises the Secretary of Agriculture on economic data and programs affecting the U.S. food and fiber system. The office also provides publicly available information, such as commodity, farm sector and weather forecasts, to agricultural producers and consumers to make informed decisions. The USDA has had a Chief Economist since the 1920’s.

Often you hear beef consumption reported as an indicator of demand for beef, can you clarify the difference.

During periods of high beef prices, consumers tend to look for more value cuts of beef. For example, if steak prices are high relative to ground beef, shoppers will be more likely to purchase ground beef for their beef needs. Or consumers may switch to lower priced meats like pork or poultry though prices for meats typically follow one another. However, beef demand is strong; there is no question about that. Demand is strong in both the foreign and domestic markets. It is also important to note, when you look at published inflation numbers and beef prices, this data does not necessarily capture how the item’s being featured (sale prices and discounts) in grocery stores.

Lately it has been widely reported in the media that beef prices are the highest since 1986; is that true?

This data is based off of individual cuts of beef, not beef as a whole. Overall inflation and inflation of all food items has increased a lot since 1986; if you look at inflation in real terms, meaning adjusting for the purchase price of the dollar, it’s not a record. We are down from those price levels. In nominal terms, meaning no adjustment to the purchasing power of a dollar, you are seeing some cuts at record levels.

There is a lot of mention of the domestic cattle herd size, and the herd size being the lowest is has been in a significant number of years. When do you forecast cattle producers will begin to rebuild the nation’s cattle herd?

We have been expecting the herd to be rebuilt for a number of years now. But because of high feed costs and drought we have not seen the expansion that we might have thought possible given the high price of cattle. Typically when there are higher prices for cattle, the domestic herd expands. Expansion takes time. If you look at a poultry flock, they (poultry producers) can make adjustments pretty quickly. Hogs take a little more time, cattle take the most time. A calf can take two years or more to go to market.

If you look at production numbers, we did see some increase in the cow herd in the Upper Midwest and the Eastern Corn Belt area. However, most of the areas west of the Mississippi did see a decline. The concern is that 45% or more of the cattle inventory is currently in a drought area. Some of these areas have been under persistent drought for over four years. There is also feeder cattle from Canada and Mexico being imported, those additional cattle help with the supply as well.

We believe we will see positive signs toward herd size increase in 2015, but that means we will not see significant supply changes until 2016.

You mentioned drought as a cause of higher prices and a smaller cow herd, what does the drought actually mean for cattle producers?

Some cattle are being moved out of areas where we are seeing drought conditions. They are being moved to areas with better pasture conditions. Long-term drought does take a toll. It would help to have better pasture conditions in the highest cattle-producing regions of the country. We are now in the fourth year of consecutive drought, and there is certainly a concern that drought will take a further toll before we are done.

 We often get the question, will the nation run out of beef. Is that a possibility?

We are not going to run out of beef. We are seeing the results of tighter supply in the form of higher prices, not shortages.

For more information about the Office of the Chief Economist visit

Having Agony Over the Agonists? Perspective from a Former USDA Food Safety Official

RaymondBy Richard Raymond, M.D., former Undersecretary for Food Safety, U.S. Department of Agriculture

This is a topic of discussion within the beef industry. The following article does not represent the opinion of the Beef Checkoff or the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

With beta-agonists being in the news lately, I find myself frequently being asked questions about these animal feed ingredients and why they’re used in raising some livestock today.  Beta-agonists have been used in US swine production since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval in1999 and in US cattle production since 2003. Approval for use in turkey production has followed, but is not used as widely as in cattle and swine.

Beta-agonists have been approved for use in finishing animals raised for food in more than two dozen countries, many of them major producers of red meat to feed a hungry world.

Beta-agonists promote heavier, leaner carcasses, providing less expensive meat and healthier choices.

It is estimated that beta-agonists used as feed ingredients at targeted points in the life cycle of animals raised for food increase pork yields by about 6-7 pounds per pig, and increase beef yields by an estimated additional 30 pounds of lean meat per cow.

If only half of the 24 million head of cattle harvested annually, a conservative estimate to be sure, yielded an additional 30 pounds of meat, this would provide 360 million more pounds of lean beef during a time when drought and high grain prices are forcing a reduction in the size of the American cattle herd. That would equate to 1.4 billion additional quarter pounders to help feed the world’s children, too many of whom go to bed hungry every night.

It is also estimated that over 700 million pigs have been supplemented with beta-agonists since its approval 14 years ago. I am not an Ag Economist, but I can do the simple math that says if each of those 700 million pigs produced an additional 6 pounds because of beta-agonist supplementation, that would be over 4 billion additional pounds of pork, or put another way, an additional 16 billion four ounce servings of protein.

As the former Undersecretary for Food Safety at USDA, I also know that in those billions of servings of pork and beef, not one single incident of a foodborne illness or side effect in a human has been reported. That should make us feel confident as far as human safety goes.

So, why are beta-agonists used in animals raised for food of no significance to our health? There are multiple reasons.

First and foremost, these compounds have a very short half-life, meaning the animal’s organs break down, metabolize and excrete them very quickly. They are not, for the most part, ever detected in meat sampled by the USDA.And when the rare positive does pop up, it is far below the Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) established for human safety by the FDA n and by the international Codex Alimentarius Commission.

Secondly, beta-agonists have been used and studied in human medicine for decades. In human medicine, their route to the intended smooth muscle tissue is a direct entry into the cardio-pulmonary system in some of our most vulnerable patients.

Young children inhale beta-agonists directly into their lungs to relax the smooth muscle that is constricting their airways during an asthma attack which leaves them fighting for air. Beta-agonists are life savers.

Pregnant women in premature labor have beta-agonists injected directly into their blood through IVs, to relax the smooth muscle of the uterus to prevent a premature birth. Once again, Beta-agonists are life savers.

If we give them in significant doses to our most vulnerable patients, including young children, pregnant women and their unborn babies, most people would agree then that it is safe to consume meat from animals supplemented with beta-agonists when it is basically undetectable.

As two billion more residents of the planet Earth enter the middle class and seek increasing amounts of protein, we can only supply safe, affordable food through technology. We won’t have more land, water or feed.

I believe that people should be able to have choices when it comes to food. I have no problem with people having food choices such as organic, cage free, antibiotic free, hormone free, etc. If they can afford to pay more for more expensive production methods, more power to them. However, I also believe that we should not reduce the use of safe, proven technologies—this would ultimately result in increasing costs from farm to form, meaning higher priced meat to the consumer and subsequently limit choice for those with a less disposable income.

It is a common myth floating out there in the media that 160 countries have banned the use of beta-agonists in animals raised for food. In fact, the Codex Alimentarius Commission is a joint effort of the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization, two subdivisions of the United Nations. Codex is comprised of over 180 countries, and is charged with establishing, among other things, MRLs for food additives and veterinary drugs.

Last July, the annual Codex meeting voted on MRLs for ractopamine, one of the beta-agonists used to promote heavier, leaner carcasses in animals raised for food. The majority approved the recommendations from the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives. How can we still think there are another 160 countries out there “banning” beta-agonists?

Some countries, such as the European Union and China, do have restrictions on beta-agonists due to prior illegal use of beta-agonists such as clenbuterol, which has a much longer half-life and has caused human illness because of high residues in muscle meats.

But the lack of a registration, or approval of the sales of a drug for use in animals, does not equate to a ban. For many countries, a registration has never been sought, and they have no ban in place.  The reason many have not sought registration is simply that they have no animal agriculture industry in place to use such technologies.

US beef and pork were exported to more than 100 countries in 2012 with no restrictions against beta-agonist use.

As a former “top food safety official in the US,” I see no reason, personally, to pay more for food based on how it was raised. I do not fear for my health, nor do I fear for the health of my Grandkids when they come to Granddad’s house for a sleep over and eat the less expensive meats I buy at my mainstream grocery. I feel confident that the FDA has approved this product as safe for humans and safe as a feed ingredient for animals. I’m incredibly proud of the efficient, sustainable and safe food supply that we have here in the United States and I feel incredibly fortunate that we’re able to pay less for our high-quality food than any other country in the world. Personally, I’m thankful that I can use this cost savings to spoil my Grandkids and donate to efforts to find the cure for true health problems, such as Multiple Sclerosis.

In the News

farmland Allentown Productions has announced the subjects of the upcoming documentary, Farmland, from Oscar®-winning
filmmaker, James Moll. The feature length documentary, which is now in post-production, follows the next generation of American farmers and ranchers, all in their 20s, in various regions across the US.

Featured in the documentary is Brad Bellah, a sixth-generation cattle rancher from Throckmorton, TX. Brad stated, “I’m proud of what I do as a rancher. Participating in this documentary gave me the opportunity to share my story, which I hope shows my dedication to not only the animals on our ranch, but also to the people who eat the meat I raise.” Check out bios and photos of Brad Bellah and the other five farmers at

BlogHer Life Well Said logoAnne Burkholder, Nebraska feedyard owner, was featured on BlogHer speaking about environmental sustainability and the need for a variety of skills at the table to achieve that goal. BlogHer is a women’s blogging network with 55 million women that features content about health, food, lifestyles and much more. Read Anne’s take on Different Kinds of Smart.


March 19 is National Agriculture Day. This encompasses not only farmers, but also everyone involved in growing, processing, transporting, and preparing our food for the table. Each weekday Eatocracy features a special food holiday. These can range from raw ingredients, regional specialties, or guilty pleasures that satisfy our sweet tooth. No matter where these foods come from, they have something in common – it all started on a farm. Check out the story at

Growing_Farms_Podcast2-300x300John Suscovich at Food Marketing Solutions/FoodCyclist Farm spoke with Nebraska feedyard owner, Anne Burkholder, calling it “one of the most fun conversations about farming” he’s ever had. Looking at his farm as a business, John was able to gain perspective and inspiration from Anne following their conversation around the farming community and farming as a business. Listen to the podcast interview here, and check out Anne’s take on the interview as well.

featured-eatocracyMy family isn’t under “corporate control.” Brian Scott farms with his father and grandfather on 2,300 acres of land in northwest Indiana. They grow corn, soybeans, popcorn and wheat. Corporate relationships and the use of genetically modified products are complex and controversial issues, and Eatocracy will be presenting points of view on it from more farmers, food scientists and environmentalists in the coming weeks. Click here to read the whole story.

Meat of the Matter Are Our Modern Methods of Preserving and Cooking Meat Healthy? Evaluating someone’s health based on meat consumption alone, while ignoring other dietary choices and personal habits, does not make sense. Although humans no longer depend on meat in the same way as our ancestors, red meat remains an important global source of protein, iron and vitamin B12. Click here to read the entire story.

Surprising ways to lower cholesterol Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. Registered Dietitian Patricia Bannan, author of “Eat Right When Time is Tight,” provides some natural foods to lower your cholesterol and protect your heart. Click here to read the whole story.

Opposing view: LFTB is 100% beef The American public has a right and a responsibility to be concerned about the safety, nutrition and quality of our nation’s food. It is only natural that we look to the news media and our network of friends and family to help inform our choices.Unfortunately, the debate over lean, finely textured beef (LFTB) has been grossly distorted by careless and deliberate misinformation, which has spread like wildfire.  Click here to read the  article.

Scientist: Don’t blame cows for climate change A scientist in the United States has questioned the impact meat and dairy production has on climate change, and accused the United Nations of exaggerating the link.Click here to read the entire story.

Beer mash fattening cows, trimming costs in Colorado Explosive growth in Colorado’s craft-brewing industry produces not only more beer, but more beer byproducts. That means the hamburger you eat next week may come from a steer happily fed last week with brewing leftovers. Using spent grains for livestock feed dates to the advent of beer. But with corn and other commodity prices sky high, feedyards increasingly are using brewing byproducts to help fatten cattle in preparation for slaughter.Click here to read the entire story.

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