chicago / reuters / U.S. consumers, already cringing at high beef prices, can expect even more expensive meat later this year due to the smallest cattle herd in more than 50 years, according to the head of one of the nation’s largest meat companies.
Supermarket beef prices set a record of $5.09 per pound in January, but are poised to go higher, said Don Jackson, chief executive of JBS USA.
Cattle supplies are expected to drop significantly later this year, which will drive up cattle and beef prices, he said.
That may prompt consumers to switch from beef to lower-priced pork and chicken, but Jackson said that has not happened yet.
“We haven’t seen it, at least in a material way,” Jackson said. “Chicken was exceptionally cheap, and yet beef demand, pork demand stayed strong. The evidence doesn’t support the premise, but again we haven’t had beef prices at these levels in the past so maybe there is a threshold level we will begin to see that.”
Year-to-date cattle slaughter is down 5.5 per cent from 2011 and beef production is down 4.3 per cent. JBS USA produces beef, pork and chicken, and is a unit of Brazilian meat producer JBS SA, the world’s largest meat producer.