What’s with the beefy prices?

Just in time for grilling season, meat prices are on the rise. And, according to a March 2014 news release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the U.S. Department of Labor, it is a pretty steep increase.

In a measurement of meats, poultry, fish and eggs — prices rose more than any other food group at 1.2%, matching the February increase. Dairy and its related products weren’t too far behind rising by 1.0%. Overall, the food index rose 0.4% in March, the same increase as in February.

These statistics come on the heel of the 12-month calculations, which saw a 5.1% increase in prices for meats, poultry, fish and eggs.

Unfortunately, the bad news doesn’t stop there. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service also recently presented its own statistics for projected food costs. The statistics are broken up into a few categories, including food, food-at-home (grocery store food items) and food-away-from-home (restaurant purchases) — and all of the categories are “expected to increase 2.5–3.5% over 2013 levels.” This prediction is made assuming that there are normal weather conditions. However, severe weather events could change the projections. Furthermore, the USDA said, “the ongoing drought in California could have large and lasting effects on fruit, vegetable, dairy and egg prices.”

The problem partially lies in the number of cattle in the U.S., the largest beef producer worldwide. Bloomberg reports that cattle herds are at a 63-year low. The issue is compounded with a dry spell in Texas, which just happens to be nation’s largest cattle producer.

Kevin Good, senior analyst at a cattle research firm CattleFax, in an article in Market Watch says “higher prices will continue through 2015 or 2016,” so expect to pay a higher price for your favorite beef products for some time.

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