From burger meat to prime steaks, the rising cost of beef from Canada shows no signs of easing anytime soon. To understand why, look no further than ranchers like Shawn Freimark who can’t afford to feed their cattle.
A drought has parched pastureland throughout the biggest beef-producing provinces and left Canada, the world’s seventh-largest exporter, with its smallest herd in 22 years. Freimark was unable to grow the grass normally used to feed his 200 cattle in Castor, Alberta. He’s sold one-fifth of his animals to cut his losses, and may unload even more.
“We’re going to be buying all of our feed,” said Freimark, 45, who estimates it will cost him C$50,000 ($39,800) to get C$100,000 of hay by truck from six hours away.
Cattle supplies are so tight in Canada that meat plants are running at 74 percent of capacity, a seven-year low, forcing processors to pay a premium for animals to slaughter. Retail prices are the highest on record going back to at least 1995, with a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of ground beef up by a third over the past two years to C$12.64 in May and sirloin steak jumping 44 percent to C$24.22.