A shortage of beef is expected to materialize in 2023 and 2024 as more cattle are sent to slaughter due to challenges with feeding them.
Ranchers in Texas — who make up about 14% of the nation’s beef cow herd — are sending more cows to slaughter as a result of drought-like conditions, according to USA Today.
“There isn’t enough grass to eat and it’s become too expensive to buy feed,” David Anderson, a livestock specialist at Texas A&M University, told the newspaper. “We’ve had a large amount of culling this year because of drought.”
Drought conditions have eased since they reached extreme levels statewide over the summer, according to news radio WOAI.
The counties of Deaf Smith, Castro, Parmer and Hartley in the state’s northern panhandle, the heart of Texas beef ranching, are experiencing moderate to severe lack of rain, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
The National Weather Service also expects La Nina conditions this winter to contribute to below-average rainfall for the southern part of the country, from California to Florida, according to Axios.
Female heifer cows who haven’t birthed new calves are part of that culling, USA Today reports, meaning that there will be fewer beef cows available for slaughter in the next year or so.
The good news is more cows to slaughter now — which is up 13% nationwide and 30% in Texas — means lower beef prices in the short term. But the economics will reverse course by fall 2024 and consumers will start to feel the pinch.
“There’s going to be a shortage of beef and prices are probably going to go up,” Erica Kistner-Thomas of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Institute of Food Production and Sustainability told the newspaper. “This could also have a compounding effect on other meat prices as people switch from beef to chicken.”