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Beef Prices Highest In 27 Years

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- If beef is what's for dinner at your house, it's going to cost you more.

Beef prices are the highest they've been in 27 years. Fewer cattle, drought and cold weather are all contributing to push prices to an average of $5.04 per pound in January

Penny Jernberg, general manager of the 5-8 Club in Minneapolis, says the demand for her restaurant's trademark juicy Lucy burger is steady, while prices for the main ingredient are climbing.

"We'll sell at least 300 on a Saturday, if not more," Jernberg said. "For us, you know, it does hit your pocketbook a bit."

And that's a problem that goes from table to farm, according to Karin Schaefer with the Minnesota Beef Council.

"We've faced some record drought years in some of our top-producing cattle state: Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas," Schaefer said.

She says fewer people are choosing to become cattle farmers, so supply is lower.

"Another reason - this harsh winter," Schaefer said. "Just like it costs you more to keep your home warm, it costs more for corn stalk and hay to keep beds warm for these guys."

Cattle farmer Dave Marquardt of Waverly says his warming costs are up by one third.

"It has not been an easy winter," Marquardt said.

But the recent selling prices are good for him.

"Last time we shipped, I believe we got the highest price we've ever gotten for cattle," he said.

It's a price that restaurants and stores pay, and sometimes eat.

"Not gonna cut down, not gonna make [the juicy Lucy] smaller," Jernberg said. "Ours is a half-pound and we'll keep it that way."

For those who can't live without burgers, the Beef Council suggests buying less-expensive cuts of beef, use a marinade or rub and buy in bulk.

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