Surging Demand for U.S. Beef Lifts Prices

From Reuters

Spurred by a scare over “mad cow” disease in Canada, demand for U.S. beef has soared, pushing up the price of cattle, analysts said Friday.

Wholesale beef prices also have hit record highs, with the situation likely to last until the United States reopens its border to Canadian beef and cattle.

For the record:

12:00 AM, May. 31, 2003 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday May 31, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 65 words Type of Material: Correction
“Mad cow” disease -- Recent articles in Section A and the Business section have stated that variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans is caused by eating products contaminated with the agent that causes bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or “mad cow” disease. Although scientists believe that there is strong evidence that eating such products can cause a new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the link is not definitively established.

The U.S. banned Canadian imports May 20 after a cow in the province of Alberta tested positive for BSE, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

Mad cow disease devastated Britain’s beef industry in the 1990s.


U.S. beef exports ticked higher in the week ended May 22, including sales to Canada.

“We’re not only having to supply the U.S.; we’re having to supply Canada now, and all the outside people who were buying from Canada,” said Ann Barnhardt, analyst at Hedgers-, an agriculture market research firm.

Canada exported 1.69 million cattle to the U.S. last year, along with 503,141 tons of beef. With that supply pipeline suddenly shut, buyers have had to scramble.

U.S. demand has been further boosted by the start of the summer barbecue season, traditionally marked by the Memorial Day weekend.

With soaring demand, the price of wholesale beef also has skyrocketed. Choice wholesale beef rose Friday to $149.32 to $150.07 per hundred pounds, up $6.29 to $6.68 from a week ago.

When Canada convinces the world that its beef is safe and the U.S. reopens the border, cattle prices will fall, analysts said.