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MEAT PRICES DRIVE INCREASE …¬†

Food prices spiked by a seasonally adjusted 2.7 percent last month according to data released this week by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s the biggest monthly jump in three years – far outpacing increases in March (1.1 percent), February (0.6 percent) and January (0.7 percent).

What’s prompting the hikes?

Lots of stuff, apparently … including a virus in the nation’s hog population and a shrinking cattle population, factors which helped send meat prices soaring by 8.4 percent from the previous month.

America’s cattle population stood at 87.7 million in February of 2014 – down two percent from the previous year (which was the worst year for cattle since the 1950s). Since peaking at 132 million in 1975, America’s cattle population has declined by 33 percent over the past four decades – hit hard by deadly disease outbreaks in the 1990s and more recent recalls.

Oh, and let’s not dismiss the impact of ethanol fuel subsidies – which continue to divert corn that could otherwise be used to feed herds.

Experts predict higher beef prices will persist through 2016 … despite a declining appetite for meat amongst U.S. consumers. According to a recent¬†NPR-Truven Health Analytics Health Poll, 39 percent of Americans say they eat less beef now than three years ago – while only six percent said they eat more beef.