Meaty Market: Beef prices decline after drought relief

HARLINGEN — Beef is back on the menu.

After two years of the highest average beef prices in nearly 20 years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued a report every American will be eating a half-pound more this year than they did last year.

The beef price problem was created by years of drought in the South and Southwest, leading cattle producers to sell their cows for slaughter because of high feed costs.

As ranchers increased their herds after the drought eased, it means there’s more beef and lower prices for consumers.

The average cost of a pound of beef, all cuts combined, was $5.28 per pound in February 2015. A year later, that average price had dropped to $4.38 per pound, which is the lowest composite beef price since 2009.

The average American is expected to eat 54.3 pounds of beef this year, the USDA projects.

Local meat market managers, like Mike Ortiz at A&V Lopez Super Meat Market in San Benito, have seen customer preferences change in response to higher beef prices. He wants beef prices to continue to drop.

“That’s what we’re hoping, that eventually the prices go a little bit down and get more people in the store and buy more meat,” said Ortiz, the store manager. “We’ve been selling a little more chicken than red meat this past year.”

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U.S. Meat Consumption

BEEF: Consumption has trended downward since the 1970s. Per capita consumption of beef reached an all-time high of 94.3 pounds in 1976. Beef consumption continued to decline in the 1980s and 1990s. In 2012, per capita beef consumption was 57.4 pounds. In 2015 it was 53.7 pounds.

POULTRY: Per capita consumption of chicken and turkey has increased dramatically since the 1970s, according to USDA data. Chicken consumption rose from 40.2 pounds per person in 1970 to 81.3 pounds per person in 2012. Turkey consumption climbed from 8.1 pounds per person in 1970 to 16 pounds per person in 2012.

PORK: Annual per capita pork consumption reached a high of 60.5 pounds in 1971 and a low of 42.9 pounds in 1975. In 2012, per capita consumption was 45.9 pounds.

Source: North American Meat Institute

Photo Credit: Metro Creative