Beef prices could
climb in 2004
Demand is still high, industry official
By GREGORY FOLEY
Express Staff Writer
Beef prices could climb in 2004, despite
predictions by some analysts that the discovery of "mad cow" disease in the
United States could bring prices down.
Randy Hetrick, president of Meridian-based
Tri-City Meats, said beef prices last week rebounded sharply from a price drop
in the preceding weeks, after federal officials confirmed a case of mad cow
disease in Washington.
"It dropped in price, and just last week
the price was skyrocketing, which tells me the demand is strong," Hetrick said.
Tri-City Meats supplies beef to numerous
restaurants and food retailers in the Wood River Valley.
Hetrick said sales of beef cattle at some
auctions last week brought approximately 80 cents per pound, noting that an
"average" price would be 67 cents or 68 cents per pound.
Hetrick said he believes a continued
strong demand for beef could prevent the prices from falling.
"Itís a supply-and-demand business," he
said, noting that the regionís beef supply was becoming limited late last year,
before the Dec. 23 report that a dairy cow tested positive for bovine spongiform
encephalopathy, or mad cow disease.
Rich Stoney, meat and seafood manager for
Williams Market in Ketchum, said meat prices were up as much as 20 percent in
2003, compared to 2002. The trend, he said, could be attributed in part to the
popularity of the Atkins Dietóa diet that promotes consumption of proteins in
lieu of carbohydrates.
Beef prices had dropped by approximately 8
percent last month, Stoney said.
Chip Atkinson, president of Ketchum-based
Atkinsonsí Markets, concurred that 2003 prices have been higher. He said
Atkinsonsí in December 2002 sold prime rib for $5.99 per pound, while the same
product sold for $7.99 per pound in December 2003.