Lovers of a good steak shouldn’t expect to find bargains as cattle prices grow to record levels and beef herd shrinks to its smallest in decades.
Lovers of a good steak shouldn’t expect to find bargains as cattle prices grow to record levels and beef herd shrinks to its smallest in decades.

Your t-bone steak is going to cost a lot more - here is why

Meat lovers are facing sky-high prices for their favourite cuts of beef.

But the price hike is providing no beef for farmers, who are celebrating record returns for their cattle.

The nation's leading price indicator for saleyard cattle - the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator - has hit a record high of $7.72/kg. A year ago, it was just $5.10/kg.

"(Beef) prices have gone through the roof," said Tony O'Connell, owner of O'Connell & Son Market Meat in the Adelaide Central Market. "But the quality of the meat we're getting is extremely good."

One of the major drivers behind the record price is tight supply, with Australia having its smallest national cattle herd since 1992.

Trevor Hill, from Bruce's Meat in Mitcham Square Shopping Centre, said it was a major issue for the industry.

"A few meatworks have cut shifts right back so wholesalers around the nation have less meat to bid on," he said.

Mr Hill said beef cuts had risen 20 to 35 per cent in recent months.

It had pushed the retail price of top-quality beef mince to $18/kg.

Mr O'Connell agreed, adding: "Unfortunately the cattle numbers just aren't out there."

He said budget-conscious consumers were making cheaper cuts of meat return to vogue. "At the moment you can buy brisket for $15/kg, while porterhouse is $30/kg, so it's half the price," Mr O'Connell said.

He said cheaper meats were an option. With wild deer numbers high, local shooters were providing a good supply of venison, which was retailing for as little as $10/kg for shoulders and legs.

Tight supply and ongoing strong demand should result in a profitable year for cattle producers with stock to sell.

Scott Endersby, whose family runs the Meat at the Mount butcher shop in Mount Compass, as well as the local saleyards on the Fleurieu Peninsula, said the prices farmers were receiving for their cattle at the selling centre were very buoyant.

"Prices are excellent (for farmers), they've never been stronger," he said.

"Prices really got going in April, and in May they became really dear."

Mr Endersby expects this trend to continue for the foreseeable future.

Scott Endersby from ProStock Livestock with some of his cattle at Willunga. Picture Matt Turner.
Scott Endersby from ProStock Livestock with some of his cattle at Willunga. Picture Matt Turner.

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But, he says one aspect that could put a lid on prices would be Australia's major beef competitors - the US and Brazil - coming back hard on the export market if their coronavirus crises come under control.

Mr Endersby said consumer demand for meat remained high.

"Our sales reached record levels when the COVID lockdowns hit, they were up about 300 per cent," he said.

"While it's slowed down somewhat, our revenue would still be up about 60 per cent.."

 

Originally published as Tight supply beefs up meat's price


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