The Texas grilling season is just around the corner, but those preparing to fire up the barbecue should prepare for some sticker shock. The price of beef has risen to an all-time high of $5.04 a pound, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That's a 6 percent increase from last year, and 11 percent higher than two years ago, and cattle experts predict another 6 to 8 percent increase in the year ahead.
There is a simple reason for the surge in beef prices--supply and demand. "The primary driver right now is just the realities of what happens after a drought," says Russell Woodward, senior manager with the Texas Beef Council. He tells KTRH it will take awhile to get over the effects of the drought of the last three years. "We've got a little less supply of product out there and fewer cattle," says Woodward. "We've got the lowest cattle herd since the 1950s." Indeed, the Texas cattle herd alone has lost one million head since before the drought. But even the recovery from the drought will cause supply issues. "Now that the drought is starting to wane a little bit...we're going to see farmers and ranchers holding back some of those cows since they've got some grass to feed them now," says Woodward. "That shortens the supply of product in the meat case, and therefore prices are a little stronger."
Those stronger prices will particularly affect some of the prime cuts. "Those New York strip steaks and ribeyes and tenderloins might get a little more expensive," says Woodward. Nevertheless, he says there are still options for those grillers who want to save a little. "The sirloin steaks are still very much in the affordable range, and there's also the chuck steaks and shoulder steaks." It likely means all of those barbecue smokers getting ready for the competition at the upcoming Rodeo will have to dig a little deeper into their pockets or modify their grill selections this year because of the prices.