COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The highest beef prices since 1987 are hitting the pocketbooks of home cooks and restaurant owners.
A dwindling number of cattle and growing export demand have tightened the supply and caused the average retail cost of fresh beef to climb to $5.28 a pound in February - 24 cents higher than January.
Prices likely will stay high for a couple of years as cattle producers start to rebuild their herds. Those in the in the Southwest and Midwest will need enough rain to replenish parched pastures.
Some shoppers are turning to chicken or pork, though those prices are on the rise as well.
Some independent restaurants have hiked their menu prices or switched to smaller steaks. An economics professor says chain restaurants combat the price spike by buying in bulk.
"Beef prices have been escalating, probably a good average would be between 10 (percent) and 20 percent over last year," said Rob Smith with the Broadmoor Hotel.
Smith is a beverage and food buyer for the hotel. He said storms that hit the Midwest earlier this year killed thousands of cattle and also contributed to the rise in beef prices.
"It boils down to supply and demand. The supply chain has really, really lightened up," said Smith.
He said prices will stay high through the summer as people fire up their grills. He said there will be a temporary drop in prices this fall, and then an increase again during the holidays.
Evelyn Steel owns Nourish Organic Juice in downtown Colorado Springs. Her juice and smoothie bar doesn't sell any dishes with beef, but she says weather has also had an effect on her bottom line.
She orders produce from California when it's out-of-season in Colorado. She said the drought in California has driven up prices for produce. She hasn't raised her prices for her customers, so it effects her revenue.
"You know, we just kind of eat it for now. If it was something that was going to go on for a long period of time, I think it would be different and I would definitely have to re-think it," said Steel. "I think and I'm hoping it's just this year."
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