top of page

The Price of Your Steak: A Decade of Red Meat Rollercoaster

For the past decade, the price of red meat has been more exciting (or perhaps terrifying) than a Texas rodeo. It's been a wild ride influenced by factors as diverse as health fads, global pandemics, and even the price of oil. Let's unpack the juicy details behind these price fluctuations.

The Great Chicken Switch-Up:

The 2010s began with a health-conscious consumer wary of red meat's saturated fat content. Chicken, seen as a leaner alternative, took center stage. This shift in demand led to a temporary dip in red meat prices. However, this trend wouldn't last long.

From Biofuels to Empty Feed Bins:

Then came the plot twist! The biofuel boom of the early 2010s, fueled by rising oil prices, had an unexpected impact on red meat. Corn and soybeans, key ingredients in livestock feed, were also used for biofuel production. This surge in demand pushed up the price of these grains, making it significantly more expensive to raise cattle. Farmers, facing rising feed costs, were forced to make tough decisions. They either had to raise prices or reduce herd sizes. With smaller herds, the supply of red meat naturally dwindled, causing prices to skyrocket at the grocery store.

Droughts and the Price Spike of 2014:

Mother Nature added another layer of complexity. Droughts across the Midwest and Plains regions in 2012 significantly impacted corn and soybean production, further reducing feed availability and pushing prices even higher. Coupled with the ongoing biofuel demand, this led to a record high for red meat prices in 2014.

Pandemic Panic and the Short-Lived Dip:

The COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench into the well-oiled (or perhaps not so well-oiled) red meat machine. Disrupted supply chains and a shift in consumer behavior due to lockdowns led to the culling of herds to manage costs. This initially caused a brief dip in red meat prices. However, it was a short-lived reprieve.

Post-Pandemic Surge and the Uncertain Future:

As economies reopened, pent-up demand for red meat surged. Unfortunately, production hadn't caught up. Labor shortages in processing plants and the time it takes to raise livestock to market weight meant there simply wasn't enough red meat to meet the demand. The result? A sharp price increase in 2021, a trend that's expected to continue in 2022.

Looking ahead, experts predict continued volatility in red meat prices. The cost of feed remains a key influencer, with factors like the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and its impact on global oil prices adding another layer of uncertainty. Corn, used for both feed and biofuels, might see increased demand, pushing up prices again.

The Bottom Line:

The price of your next steak or burger is likely to be on a rollercoaster ride for the foreseeable future. Keep an eye on news about feed prices, global events, and production levels. By staying informed, you can navigate the ever-changing red meat market and adjust your grocery budget accordingly.

Are you looking for a feasibility study for a meat or food processing facility? MMCG is a USDA feasibility study company, providing USDA meat and food processing compliance feasibility studies. Contact us today.


bottom of page