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For the week of January 14 - 20, 2004

Features

Beef prices could
climb in 2004

Demand is still high, industry official says


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.

 

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