Drovers Cattle Network reports a four consecutive month increase in retail beef prices. Retail beef prices set records for the three consecutive month period of September, October and November. In November grocery store beef prices for choice beef averaged $5.001 per pound. That's up 6.8 cents per pound from October and 51.7 cents per pound from November 2010. The beef supply is expected to be 4 to 5% lower in 2012 meaning many more months of record high beef prices.
Now is the time to look for options and alternatives rather than simply accept higher beef prices. One alternative is to buy beef directly from a local farmer. Some farmers will sell you part ownership of a beef animal. Typically you pay the farmer a deposit based on the estimated weight of the beef animal. The farmer then delivers the beef animal to a state or federally licensed meat packing plant to be harvested, cut and wrapped. The final price will be based on the hanging weight of the beef after harvesting and includes your share of the fee charged by the meat packing plant. Once the beef is cut and wrapped it is flash frozen. You pick up the frozen beef directly from the meat packing plant.
I recently purchased half a beef this way. I took a tour of the ranch prior to buying a share of the beef animal. The beef animals are pasture raised on a ranch that is over 1,000 acres. The animals range freely and feed on native grass hay. No feed lot conditions, no steroids or antibiotics - just grass hay, water and free range. The quality of the beef is exceptionally good. I've yet to serve the beef without a guest commenting on its flavor and quality and asking where I bought it. After harvesting, cutting and wrapping I received 240 pounds of packaged meat from my half of the beef. Of the 240 pounds, 110 pounds is ground beef and 130 pounds is streaks and roasts. My cost per pound of packaged beef was $4.58 per pound. Based on both the price and the quality I hope to never buy beef from a grocery store again.