Beef is now $5.28/pound, the highest since 1987. Is that going to shift habits over the next decade?

Just in time for the summer grill-out season, beef prices are at their highest point since the late 1980s. And here’s the really good news!

Everything that’s produced is being consumed, said Kevin Good, an analyst at CattleFax, a Colorado-based information group. And prices likely will stay high for a couple of years as cattle producers start to rebuild their herds amid big questions about whether the Southwest and parts of the Midwest will see enough rain to replenish pastures.

Yep. The drought is a legitimate thing. Now here’s the broader question: in the next 25-50 years, it’s quite possible that a few major aspects of day-to-day life — gas prices, beef prices, even chicken prices — will continue to rise (beef prices might rise 4 percent in 2014, whereas the projection had been 2.5 percent). At what point do these markets tip? Now, Tesla is apparently driving 12,000 miles right now on a network of pre-existing charging stations, so that auto market could shift — if they can get the price down and the battery thing worked out. Food markets are a bit different, though: a drought would impact other substitutes there; there are some food, such as lentils, that can be grown in drought-type conditions, but primary proteins often cannot (or at least cannot without prices rising). In 90 years, will everyone be driving an electric car and eating lentil/carrot stews for two meals a day? That might be aggressive, but when you see beef prices rise without any possible context of falling, you do have to wonder about when markets might tip.


Ted Bauer