US Beef Shortage Reaches Worst Point in a Decade

US Beef Shortage Reaches Worst Point in a Decade

( – Many Americans look forward to summer for the warmth, time at the beach or pool, and a really good burger. But, the last item on this list may be just a bit harder to find, or more expensive, this year as America’s cattle herds are contracting in size. This, paired with droughts hurting much of the nation, has pushed beef production to its lowest level in ten years.

In the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) February Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook Report, the agency highlighted how American cattle herds follow a cycle of expansion and decline. The industry expanded from 2014 to 2018 but began declining in 2019 and has not turned around. In addition, droughts hitting the west coast and midwest states have decreased the amount of pasture the cows can forage in and pushed alfalfa hay prices, which farmers can also use for feed for their animals, to an all-time high.

On January 1, 2023, there were 89.3 million cattle in the US, marking a 3% decrease from a year prior. Beef cow numbers were down 4% from the previous year.

While Americans may find it harder or pricier to purchase beef, the USDA believes the supply of pork, broiler meat, and turkey will also increase quite a bit this year. The report also revealed that farmers may be focusing their attention on dairy cows over meat cows. In 2022, there were 9.4 million milk cows added to the dairy industry to increase the production of milk, cheese, yogurt, and other creamy goods.

Combined, the USDA expects both beef and poultry production to decline in 2023, the latter being heavily affected by an outbreak of avian influenza. This has pushed the cost of eggs, which had been the cheapest source of protein for years, even higher and forced some stores to limit the number of eggs customers can purchase. Looking forward, this could pose a risk to food availability in the United States, especially in areas where fresh food is difficult to find.

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