CHICAGO — U.S. beef production is plunging to a 21-year low after surging feed costs spurred ranchers to cut herds, signaling record prices.
U.S. production will decline 4.9 percent to 10.93 million metric tons in 2014, retreating for a fourth year, the government says. The herd on July 1 was the smallest for that date since at least 1973, according to the average of four analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.
Ranchers haven’t recovered from last year’s drought that sent grain costs record-high and spurred them to slaughter more cattle. While feed costs are now slumping with what appears to be the biggest U.S. corn crop ever, it takes more than two years to raise enough animals to expand supply. Retail ground-beef prices in June were up 13 percent from a year earlier and near a record set in January.