Latest assignment for The Insider on the rising beef prices due to drought in California.
Beef prices have risen to historic highs in the past year, making steaks and burgers more expensive. Now drought is making it difficult and costly to feed cows, driving ranchers to cull their herds. The slaughter leaves fewer cattle for the future, putting upward pressure on beef prices for years.
Cattle are California's fourth-biggest agricultural commodity, valued at $2.74 billion in 2020, according to the state's agricultural department. But increasingly dry conditions are making the land less and less suitable for feeding and watering them. In March 2021, every pond on Scott Stone's ranch was dry for the first time in the 46 years his family has owned it.
The cost of beef in US cities rose steeply from March 2021 to March 2022, increasing 16.7% for steaks and 25.4% for other beef. Steak prices reached a record high of $10.23 a pound in November, and ground beef hit its own high of $5.41 a pound in April.