In an article last week, I said:
I live in the heart of cattle country. Texas agriculture is heavily oriented towards livestock. I’m talking to those in the industry, and listening to what they have to say, and what I’m hearing is scary as hell. Farmers are citing drought, fertilizer and pesticide shortages, supply chain problems, fuel costs and constraints, and general economic woes as reasons to begin culling their herds of cattle. They worry they may not be able to obtain (or afford) enough feed (hay, grain, etc.) to sustain their herds through winter and into spring. Meat processors and butchers, in their turn, are warning that meat prices are likely to start rising steeply in September or October as the current surplus runs out and fewer cattle are available for slaughter. One went so far as to say that beef may be almost unobtainable next year at an affordable price, if the current situation continues or gets worse. (Around here, everyone who can afford it appears to be filling their freezer[s]. I know one man who’s bought two whole steers, and multiple freezers to store all that meat. In today’s economic climate, I daresay that may not be a bad investment.)
Looks like shipping problems are a major factor in that. AgWeb reports:
Rail bottlenecks in the U.S. are not improving, and in some cases, growing more severe. Feed users in California and the Southwest are having issues sourcing grain … Not only are feed users on the brink of running out of grain, but there are also concerns the rail issues could grow worse during harvest this fall.
. . .
“What I’m hearing from our members is fewer equipment issues and that the equipment and engines seem to be not breaking down, but the train times – the amount of time it’s taking to get the trains – and the reliability of receiving them is still quite a problem in in quite a few areas of the country,” says Mike Seyfert, President and CEO of NGFA.
According to Trains.com, Foster Farms, the largest chicken producer in the western U.S., asked federal regulators to issue an emergency service order last week that would direct Union Pacific to prioritize corn shipments that thousands of dairy cattle and millions of chickens and turkeys depend upon.
”The point has been reached when millions of chickens will be killed and other livestock will suffer because of UP’s service failures,” Foster Farms wrote in its request to the Surface Transportation Board this week.
Seyfert says the emergency order shows the seriousness of the issue.
“At times in in the past several months, we have heard from more than one member that has had severe difficulty getting feed, sometimes being within several hours of being short,” says Seyfert.
There’s more at the link.
I mentioned that an increasing number of consumers are buying freezers and filling them with meat in anticipation of much higher prices and/or shortages of supply. However, unless the power supply is stable, those freezers might not be as useful as hoped. Too much of Texas’ power grid has become dependent upon renewable energy such as wind and solar power, and it’s proving to be a lot less efficient and reliable than its proponents had hoped. If you plan to keep a freezer full of meat, I think it wouldn’t be a bad idea to plan to add an emergency generator to your preparations, plus enough fuel to run it for at least a few days. If the power’s out for longer than that, plan for a large-scale cook-out, and invite the neighbors!
I strongly suggest adding some canned meat to your food reserves. It doesn’t have to be Spam or corned beef: there are other, more tasty alternatives. Walmart offers house brand versions of roast beef, seasoned beef strips and pulled pork, and a number of specialized meat producers offer tasty canned products as well. Miss D. and I have bought from Grabill Meats in Indiana for years; their cost per can is higher than supermarkets, but the quality of the meat and its flavor are vastly better, and we consider it a very useful backup. It’s good enough that we use it regularly for soups and stews. Shipping’s a bit expensive, but in our opinion the quality of their products makes it worthwhile. (No, they’re not paying us for publicity – we just like their meat, and want to spread the word.) Don’t forget to include poultry, fish, etc. in your reserves as well.
I expect meat to get a lot more expensive come the fourth quarter, and more so next year. I hope I’m wrong, but we’re planning accordingly.