Two years ago we had a series of droughts followed by flooding that devested the grain industry. The effects of these natural disasters were felt far and wide. Most noticeably for us was their effect on beef costs.
Prices for cattle shot up sharply because of the dramatic losses of corn. Corn is used as feed and so, as a result, the costs of producing industrial beef rose.
The interesting thing is that the costs for pasture raised beef did not go up. But pastured beef producers made a windfall by charging more for their beef. Why? Because the commodities market demanded more for beef in general.
This situation creates a very difficult situation for both restaurants and consumers. Local foodservice operations are forced to deal with price jumps and supply shortages and find little room to negotiate prices because of the presence of a beef commodity market.
The price for beef rose nearly $1 per pound for us. We responded by making less beef products. Other outlets ordered less beef too. One local grocer, that had an old fashion meat counter and had been in business over 50 years, closed its doors during this period. Another that prided itself in serving Ohio beef was forced to abandon that commitment because prices were too high.
The reduction in demand because of artificially inflated pricing ultimately hurt both the local slaughter houses and the very local farmers who sought to make a temporary windfall.
We are not economist or financial consultants, we are food people who are deeply concerned by our ability to acquire beef at a reasonable price bei
ng affected by an unrelated commodities market. We see this as a form of control at present and a long term strategy intended to consolidate assets for food production into the hands of a very few.
As this market based system continues to be tested by nature we will come to recognize the wisdom of pasture raised livestock and local beef markets. Maybe then we can take appropriate steps to distant our local beef production from the uncertainties of the market.
Rest assured, we won't wait for others to reach this realization. We will begin to make steps to create our own independent supply line.