September 28, 2020

BY JORDAN JOHNSTONE

Walking down the meat aisle at your local grocery store, looking at the prices of red meat may make you want to become a vegan. The cost of beef has been going up ever since the Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease) outbreak in 2003 and 2005.

Now, not only is the cost of beef still on the rise but the other red meat – pork – has been steadily rising this year due to hardship in the United States caused by piglets contracting PED, a virus that affects the small intestine in all pigs but is nearly 100 per cent fatal in infant piglets causing a decrease in this year’s herds.

“People are substituting pork now for beef and that has caused a rise in all red meat prices. All of these factors have created a sort of perfect storm in the industry,” said retired veterinarian and farmer Dr. Jim Ferrier.

Students with tight budgets are feeling the pain from rising prices, but so are butchers, grocery stores and farmers.

Global warming contributing to droughts over the past five years in the southern United States has put a strain on Canadian exports, which has affected prices at home.

“The drought in the United States, mainly in Texas, but all the southern states, has forced farmers to cull the herds and females which has slowed the growth of herds and decreased exports in normally strong cattle states,” Ferrier said.

Agricultural farmers are also taking a hit after enjoying record prices for corn feed last year. Now it is at a low for the industry because farmers are buying smaller amounts of feed because the herds are smaller.

Even the Russian ban on Canadian food imports has not stopped the rising cost of red meats at home. Rising Asian economies have opened up markets for Canadian beef exports because the rising middle class there want to eat red meat.

“With India and China’s rising middle classes we’re (Canada) exporting a lot more beef to markets that 10 to 15 years ago wasn’t much of a market for beef. Exports to these market will continue to increase year in and year out,” Ferrier said.

With the loonie falling against the U.S. dollar the last thing the industry and consumers want to add to the storm is increasing red meat prices.

This storm does not appear to be ending anytime soon so consumers may have to tighten their belts or open their wallets a little wider to enjoy red meats, which some believe they still will.

“Some people will still buy red meat no matter the cost,” Ferrier said.

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