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- The US cow population fell 3% last year while beef cows decreased to their lowest level since 1962, according to the Department of Agriculture.
- That fall in supply is likely to drive up the price of food like burgers and steaks.
- “Stronger prices will likely be the theme of the market over the next two to potentially three years,” an analyst said.
Americans should brace for prices of beef-based products ranging from hamburgers to high-quality steaks to soar after US cow numbers plummeted.
The total cow population in the country fell 3% to 89.3 million in 2022, according to a Department of Agriculture cattle inventory report published Tuesday.
The number of milk cows rose slightly but beef cows plunged 4% to just under 29 million – the lowest total since records started in 1962.
Agricultural strategists attributed the drop to a years-long drought in the US’s plains region, which has slashed total feed supplies and encouraged farmers to cut the size of their herds.
Wheat and corn futures also soared last year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine cut off global supplies from the so-called “breadbasket of Europe” – although they’ve since climbed back to pre-war levels.
The fall in US cow numbers will likely be felt in diners and kitchens, with lower beef supplies encouraging farmers to raise prices and those then being passed on to Americans buying burgers or steaks.
“What Tuesday’s report solidifies is that not only do we have ‘fewer’ beef cows in the industry than compared to years past, but also that we have the fewest beef cows ever recorded,” DTN livestock analyst ShayLe Stewart said. “That’s a stark reality to stomach and a factor that should send the cattle market soaring.”
“Tight supplies amid strong demand beckon for prices to become stronger, and stronger prices will likely be the theme of the market over the next two to potentially three years until the market sees substantial build back,” she added.