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Beef prices increase, locals impacted

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LAKE COUNTY — Local cattle ranchers have noticed that beef prices are rising. How will changes in the market impact local farmers, ranchers, and consumers?

The prices for beef and veal are up by 7.7% as well and uncooked ground beef is up by 5.5% with the rest of beef products being up in price as well. These statistics come from February 2024 Consumer Price Index released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics which also shows that pork is down in price. 

Pablo Maldonado of Sierra Farms in Polson believes the increase in prices will give producers more revenue.

“There is going to be a little more money that stays with the producers,” he said. “Normally what happens is the producers get a lesser cut of the profits because they are the first hand the animal goes through when sold.” 

Jesse Johnston, another local beef farmer, said: “We like the rising beef prices, of course, but it’s not enough to offset the rise (in costs) of everything else.”

He said land prices are another part of the problem. “We have rich guys moving in and buying land and giving more than a farmer can, which is pushing us out of buying more land to expand. You can’t buy land and pay for it with cattle like you used to.”

Johnston explained that many other costs involved in ranching have also gone up along with the price of land. “Fuel is a big thing since it costs money to run tractors,” he said, “and that’s not considering the $200,000 it costs to buy a tractor. You need the tractor to feed the cattle and to put up the feed.” 

His concern turned from the price it costs to produce beef to the consumer. “I am worried about people being able to afford it at the market,” he said.

“People will probably go after the cheaper choice since they have the new fake meat,” Maldonado said.

For those who are committed to eating beef, he recommends finding a local source. “Go to your neighbor and ask how much they are selling beef for or go on (Facebook) marketplace and find someone selling beef since fresh beef from the rancher will taste better,” he said.

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