NPR launches a project examining discrimination in America.
Beef prices up, production down
Ranchers in Arizona -- and across the US -- are cutting back beef production to stay in business. The shrinking cattle market is at its lowest level in 60 years.
NADINE ARROYO RODRIGUEZ: Consumers are now paying nearly 7 percent more for beef than they were last year. The US Department of Labor says meat prices have been climbing for the last three years—outpacing the cost increases of any other food. A severe drought, the price of fuel, fertilizer, feed and farm maintenance have contributed to the problem. Arizona has nearly 4,000 cattle ranches and like other privately-owned businesses, many are forced to reduce their stock size to keep up. This means less beef for consumers buy, according Lauren Scheller of the Arizona Beef Council.
LAUREN SCHELLER: Here is Arizona we’re used to drought years, but cattle don’t just stay within state lines. And because of drought in the Midwest that means our feed costs are very high here in Arizona. It’s a challenging time for ranchers across the country, and we’re seeing less cattle because of that.
NADINE ARROYO RODRIGUEZ: To make up for the supply shortage, the USDA reports an average two million head of cattle have been imported into the U.S. in each of the last two years.