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Record beef prices set to sizzle this summer

Record beef prices are climbing just in time for summer grilling season.

The average price for a pound of ground beef is $3.85. That’s a 16% jump in the last year.

It’s part of the buzz at the Rock Island County Fair. That’s where 4-H youngsters were showing their prized cattle on Thursday.

“With supply and demand, our inventory is low,” said Sherrard farmer Marty McManus. “So it’s going to make our prices high.”

There’s almost a perfect storm for beef prices. Fewer farmers are raising cattle. There’s more Asian demand for U.S. beef. Drought is depleting the supply.

As a result, beef prices will rise more than any food group this year.

“It’s clearly sent that economic signal to producers that we need to produce more,” said Don Close, Rabo AgriFinance.

They’re talking about it at the Illinois Beef Association Summer Conference in the Quad Cities. These producers know all about the ups and downs of the cattle industry. High prices are something of a mixed blessing.

“That allows us to stay in business and grow our business and keep going for generations to come,” said fifth generation Cambridge farmer Don Lyman.

These trends aren’t likely to change in the short run. But despite record prices, demand for beef remains high.

Customers may be choosing cheaper cuts for grilling season, but they don’t seem to be backing away from beef.

“We can see some transition and swaps for better value cuts,” Close said.

That’s fine at the fair, where the next generation is preparing to raise cattle.

“Yes, it is a sticker shock,” McManus said. “But if you want to eat that steak, you’re going to have to pay for it.”

While beef prices could level off, experts warn it will take a few years to replenish the lowest herd levels in more than 60 years.

Until then, get ready for fork out more dough for that hamburger.

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