Consumers who enjoy beef should prepare to pay even more for their burgers.
Last week, the wholesale price of choice-grade beef soared to $2.11 a pound, eclipsing the record price for beef set in 2003 in the wake of a mad-cow disease outbreak in Canada. Retailers are expected to pass on higher wholesale prices to consumers over the summer, the Wall Street Journal notes.
Beef prices have jumped in recent years due to a prolonged drought affecting cattle states, which has raised the cost of feed for cattle and forced ranchers to reduce their herds. In fact, cattle numbers have fallen to their lowest level in sixty years.
The price rise comes as consumers are already feeling the squeeze of a lackluster economy and higher taxes and could prompt a switch to less expensive meats. Beef sales at supermarkets dropped 1.7% during the first quarter of the year, while pork sales climbed 3.1%. Chicken sales were unchanged.
In 2012, the price of been consumed by an average person rose 4.2% over the prior year. Beef sales in the U.S. hit $90.6 billion last year even as the volume of beef sold fell.
The effect of the lingering drought on beef prices has been predicted since late last year.