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Why Is Pork Getting So Expensive? (And Beef and Chicken!)

August 27, 2014

hamIf you’ve been to the meat counter lately you’ve seen prices going up. If you haven’t prepare yourself before you go look. In all parts of the country prices are going up. It brought a question from a friend recently on Facebook, and inspired this post for all of those who may be wondering the same thing.

I’m going to speak (or write!) for a few minutes here to those *not* involved with agriculture. If you have questions please ask in the comments – it may be another blog post! If I don’t know I will sure get someone who does! Most people in the suburbs and cities, and many in small towns and rural areas, aren’t fully aware of issues that have been in agriculture the last couple of years. It might be a news headline here and there but many don’t see those headlines. At this point a part of me wants to say go to our farm page, or find a farmer blogger to follow for another view but many just don’t want to take time to do that. Unfortunately, although not all want to know about the nuts and bolts of food production, those nuts and bolts affect your food!

With the busy day to day world you probably aren’t aware of or concerned with PEDv, a virus that has resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of baby pigs this year. There is no vaccination for it, no means of treatment and little known about it. Just recently there was indication found it may trace to feed. As a virus, it will not respond to antibiotics or nutrition. Nearly 200 farms in 13 states suffered extreme losses – and by losses I mean dead baby pigs. That’s a vast amount of pork that now is not going to slaughter and on to meat counters as bacon, pork chops and sausage. Supply and demand – and when supply gets hit, it gets more expensive.

My friend Wanda did a post on PEDv some months ago, as did another friend Chris. Both of these ladies actively raise hogs, including that which you might find on your meat counter at the store. While we do a smaller scale, custom version, it’s no less at risk from danger than their larger farms.

Looming also in the hog realm is the cost of meeting regulations from eliminating gestation crates – what people said they wanted and would pay for. Business expenses are added into costs which determine what you pay. This same thing can apply to chicken housing of hens.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut what about beef? Most beef cattle are raised outside, and spend most of their life out in the pasture. Last year the drought made headlines, as did the afterthought of farmers selling off cows because there wasn’t pasture or hay to feed them. That’s a lot of cows that didn’t have calves this year. Then came the storm Atlas – more calves, many that were almost ready for market – didn’t get there because of an early storm. Those calves, normally, would be going to market now and…they aren’t here. Many areas were hit with drought again this year, and combined with high cattle prices, old cows that are less productive are going for burger, making things tighter still for *next* year. This is your warning – make provisions!

Chickens, too, had issues on a commercial level, with some strains of chickens showing infertility in roosters. Fewer chicks hatched means fewer meat birds being processed and…higher prices. The connection between beef, pork and chicken issues isn’t as much as many will think – it’s a bad year in some ways for three types of farming. There are options – small farms like ours can ease the strain but that takes a willingness to alter slightly to meet us enough to make it happen. There’s rabbit, duck, turkey and other choices.

Another option for a few meals per week is make meats an alternative. Use a pound of ground beef in a casserole to feed a family instead of a few people. Look for meals that make it an accent. We might do chili mac and cheese or breakfast skillets.

Make more efficient use of the meats you use. American farmers are working hard to keep food choices in front of you at any time you want it. That’s large farms, small farms, direct, grocery store, organic and not. As supplies come back up, we get the crisis issues dealt with hopefully prices will relax. As it is, the $4/pound pork and beef I’d sought to book, and about $6/pound rabbit makes for great deals now.

Any business has expenses and agriculture is no different. This will pass. In the mean time there are farmers of all sizes ready and willing to engage you and answer your questions.

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