“Overall, beef demand has been hurt by the recession, but has been strong due to consumers ‘trading down’ to stretch their income,” he said. “That's led to more grinding of specific cuts of beef – chucks and rounds – to take advantage of the hamburger demand.”

He added, however, that cull cattle have also been fetching premium prices as a result of the demand for ground beef, and that export markets also continue to grow and show strength, with Vietnam emerging as a top customer for U.S. beef exports, in 2009.

"What I'm suggesting is that booming exports tighten domestic beef supplies even more and should lead to higher cattle prices for the next couple of years," Anderson said. "Supplies keep cutting back because we're not making enough money to build herds back."

Generally, however, the economists agreed that in spite of the commodity increases and the possibility of slightly higher food prices in the future, American consumers can still expect to have adequate supplies of the best and safest food in the world at the lowest overall cost.

 

b-fannin@tamu.edu ; paschattenberg@ag.tamu.edu