After meat prices soared to record highs last year, a new trend could mean, more often, it’s what’s for dinner.
A cattle surplus is keeping prices steady, but what does that mean for ranchers?
They’re seeing their cattle sell at a lower price and they were not expecting it.
During the years of extreme drought, there was a clear connection to why the price of beef was setting record highs.
The conditions made it hard for ranchers to maintain the size of their herds, but still people bought their meat.
“Prices were going high three years ago and we lost all of those cattle,” Red River Ranch Fine Meats manager, Carl Alfert said.
“From 2012 to 2014, this thing was tight and cattle prices shot through the roof,” said Billy Easter of Wichita Livestock Sales Co., LLC. “It was just kind of a perfect storm. Here we have a product that’s high demand, good exports, but we don’t have it.”
Now, ranchers do have the product and the demand is still high.
But still they struggle.
This week, market experts say calf prices are soft. But next week the prices could be singing a different tune.
“There’s an old term, ‘the trend’s your friend,'” Easter said. “If you figure out what your trend is and play your cards accordingly, all you had to do was buy one and hold it for 6 months and it was going to make you plenty of money. So they buy them thinking it’s going to spike back up a little bit. But then it goes down and what you bought this week is too high next week.”
This trend of uncertainty is what Easter says is causing beef prices to remain fairly steady at your grocery store.
“That’s the reason they don’t fluctuate that meat price in grocery stores,” Easter said. “If it’s high one week and down the next week. If it’s the week that its high, people will just walk by it thinking it will be cheaper next week.”
“One day something will be $20.99 per pound and then next day it will be $18.99,” Alfert said. “Maybe a dollar more, but we haven’t seen those price decreases yet.”
Easter says the unsettled market is caused by a slew of outside factors, like oil prices, grain prices and so on.
But says area herds are up about 2 percent.