- Beef prices in the US spiked 5% between March and April, Reuters reported.
- “The prices are astronomical,” a Louisiana real estate marketer told Reuters.
- Members of Congress from South Dakota are calling for an investigation into the meatpacking industry.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
The average price of a fresh cut of beef in the US reportedly spiked 5% between April and March.
In the last year, US prices were up 10%, Reuters reported, citing research from data firm NielsenIQ.
“The prices are astronomical,” a Louisiana real estate marketer told Reuters.
As the world tiptoed out of the pandemic, Americans were heading back to restaurants. That has increased demand, but it was just one of several factors putting upward pressure on beef prices, Reuters reported.
Beef prices reportedly were rising around the world, spurred in part by growing demand in China. US exports of beef were expected to rise 6 percent this year, fueled by increased consumption in Asia, according to data from the Department of Agriculture.
In the US, corn, and soybeans – common cattle feed – were at their highest prices in almost a decade, Reuters reported.
Meatpackers were also having difficulty finding and retaining employees.
“We have a high supply of cattle at one end of this equation and a high demand for US beef at the other, but the middle is being absolutely choked by the lack of processing capacity,” Ethan Lane, vice president of government affairs at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said in a statement earlier this month.
Sen. John Thune and Rep. Dusty Johnson, both of South Dakota, have been calling for Washington to investigate what they say are anti-competitive practices and manipulation in the cattle market. They said meatpackers have been buying low from ranchers, then increasing prices for consumers.
Lane said, “Cattle producers deserve to know whether or not the price disparity that has plagued our market is the result of anti-competitive or other inappropriate practices in the packing sector.”
On Wednesday, Thune assigned some blame for rising prices to President Joe Biden’s administration, saying the current unemployment benefits are keeping potential meatpacking workers from seeking employment.
“And even now, with our country well on its way to full reopening, meatpackers are still not back to full capacity – at least in part, it seems, because the enhanced unemployment benefits the Biden administration is providing are not encouraging workers to come back to work,” Thune said.