Busting your chops: Forking over more for pork, beef


Hope you like chicken, because your pocketbook will. Prices for both beef and pork are pushing higher, but the reason behind the rising costs at the meat counter differs.

The Wall Street Journal reports an extended drought in Great Plains states "...has shrunk the nation's cattle supply to six-decade lows" as supermarkets prepare for the Fourth of July, which is traditionally the year's busiest time for beef sales. Retail prices for fresh beef rose 12 percent in the 12 months through May and were just shy of the all-time high reached in April, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The story said restaurants and food retailers are deciding whether to raise prices or offer smaller cuts to preserve their profits. Smaller package sizes and less pricey cuts of beef are showing up in grocers' meat cases as well.

Meanwhile, meat-lovers will have to salt away more to afford bacon, brats and pork ribs. The Star Tribune cited statistics from the USDA that show that consumers are paying 15 percent more for pork products than one year ago. The story predicted that prices are likely to climb even higher, noting that "U.S. hog futures, which have soared 50 percent this year, set a new record last week."

NPR News explained that a virus that attacks pigs has taken a toll on the nations hog farmers. Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, or PEDv, has killed more than 7 million piglets in the past year in 30 states. The story noted that hog producers are worried about how to keep their farms immune from a disease that has no proven cure. Scientists do not believe the disease can be transmitted to humans.

The Star Tribune's story said that the University of Minnesota's College of Veterinary Medicine has tracked several hundred Minnesota farms that have recorded cases of the virus. Minnesota is the nation’s second-largest pork producer (Iowa is first), and home to two massive pork processing plants: Hormel in Austin and JBS in Worthington.

In June, the USDA announced that it would spend $26.2 million to eradicate PEDv.

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