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Sticker shock at the butcher shop – Audio

Sticker shock at the butcher shop

Dan Schaefer, Professor
Department of Animal Science
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
Phone: (608) 263-4513

2:58 – Total Time

0:17 – Condition of the beef herd
0:35 – A look at the demand side
0:58 – Drought cuts supply
1:48 – Hold ’em or fold ’em
2:23 – A long time to market a beef animal
2:49 – Lead out

Sevie Kenyon: We’re visiting today with Dan Schaefer, Department of Animal Science, University of Wisconsin – Madison in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences now celebrating 125 years and I’m Sevie Kenyon. Dan, beef prices are up at the meat counter, what is contributing to this?

Dan Schaefer: Well the demand for beef has been very strong here within the U.S. as well as globally and the supply of cattle is as low as it has been since 1951 so consequently the prices are up.

Sevie Kenyon: Dan, what is affecting the demand side of this?

Dan Schaefer: The demand side is surprisingly strong I would have to say because consumers are willing to pay the prices that are being sought for by retailers as well as the fact that we are exporting about 11% of our domestic beef production to global markets, principally Japan.

Sevie Kenyon: Dan, what are the things affecting the supply side?

Dan Schaefer: The supply side of the beef business has been definitely affected by the prolonged drought that has occurred in the western half of the United States. Since, 1996 our beef cow herd numbers have only increased in two of the succeeding eighteen years. So in all other years we have been slaughtering cows because we haven’t had feed to support them and around ‘07 ‘08 prices of feed became so high that there was no incentive to respond to the market prices and so liquidation continued. So we’ve liquidating for almost twenty years.

Sevie Kenyon: Dan perhaps you can describe for us this decision making process for a beef producer who has high prices right now but is looking at the future.

Dan Schaefer: The decision really hinges on whether the producer who has a calf crop, then needs to decide whether the heifer calves, that is the young female calves are going to be sent for sale or whether they are going to be retained in the herd for breeding purposes. That decision point has a lot to do with whether the beef cow herd increases in size and it has an affect on the amount of animals that are available for beef production.

Sevie Kenyon: Dan, maybe you can describe for us that whole process, the cycle of brining an animal to market?

Dan Schaefer: An animal comes to market at an age of approximately 15-18 months. From the time of conception until the time the animal is harvested for food, about twenty seven months has elapsed. That’s called the biological timeline for cattle and that timeline is far longer than it is for pigs and much, much longer than it is for poultry.

Sevie Kenyon: We’ve been visiting with Dan Schaefer, Department of Animal Science, University of Wisconsin – Madison in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and I’m Sevie Kenyon