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Beef prices may hit record high in 2013

December 14, 2012: 9:17 AM ET


Your hamburger could cost more in 2013.

Global beef prices are expected to rise to record highs in 2013, according to Rabobank, a Dutch financial firm with a focus on agriculture. Their analysts point to the "lethargic world economy," and a beef supply that has largely remained flat for six years straight.

In the United States alone, beef production is expected to decline significantly in 2013, whether or not droughts in the Midwest continue.

Even if more rain restores pastures next year, beef production could be down as much as 9%, said David Nelson, a Rabobank analyst. "This is because ranchers would then hold back young females (heifers) for breeding to expand, instead of sending them to the market," he said.

If the drought continues, ranchers are more likely to send their heifers to market sooner, but still, Nelson said he expects beef production to be down about 4%. Currently, Rabobank says the prime cattle feeding regions of the U.S. are under "severe to exceptional drought conditions."

In October, the price for a pound of lean ground beef averaged $4.11,  up 30 cents from a year earlier. A USDA Choice sirloin steak cost about $6.75 a pound, up 43 cents from a year earlier, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Demand for beef is expected to fall in the United States next year as well. Americans are predicted to eat around 55 pounds of beef per person in 2013, down from about 58 pounds this year, according to USDA estimates.

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