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Analysis: Spring thaw to briefly relieve hot U.S. beef prices

Author: Kristy

Already pricey beef at grocery stores is expected to become even more expensive in February – wholesale beef and cattle prices are at all-time highs this winter in the United States, fueled by a tight supply of cattle.

Prices for slaughter-ready cattle soared this month because the shutdown of packing plants during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays constricted the flow of steaks and roasts to supermarkets and restaurants.

With the U.S. cattle herd already at a 61-year low of 89 million head, supplies tightened further as waves of unusually cold weather slowed cattle weight gains and delayed the movement of livestock from feeding yards to slaughterhouses.

But consumers should catch a brief break once arctic temperatures ease and warmer spring weather allow cattle to put on weight more easily and get to market quicker. Packing plants also are expected to lower the price that they charge grocers for beef in the face of a brewing pushback against high prices, economists said.

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