Bullish On Beef

That slab of steak that so many Americans avoided for so many years is suddenly acceptable again, CBS News Correspondent Jeffrey Kofman reports.

Just ask Don Leeds and Michele Magazine. Beef eaters and proud of it. "I've eaten more meat in the last six months than I've eaten in the last 15 years," Leeds says.

There's new enthusiasm in the cattle markets, too. And why not? For years demand has been declining, but this year it is up 4 percent over 1998, and so are prices.

"We are producing more beef than we have ever done before in the nation's history," explains Chuck Leavitt, senior livestock analyst, Alaron Trading Corporaton. "A brand-new record for beef production, and cattle prices are trending higher. That hasn't happened in 24 years."

There are lots of reasons why cattle are such hot commodities, including a strong economy, strong exports, and all those millennium parties.

But if you really want to know why beef is in such demand, don't go to the butcher, go to the bookstore. High-protein, low-carbohydrate diet books have snagged the top four places on The New York Times Best Sellers List. The gospel according to all these books is protein -- and that means meat.

Popularity comes at a price, especially for premium cuts. They've never been more expensive.

According to meat buyer Charlie Gagliardo, "Now everybody wants to have a good steak. Everybody."

The beef industry worries that just as the New Year's demand will pass, so too will the fashion for high protein diets. Don and Michelle are both on those diets, but both insist their new passion for red meat will remain, even when the diet is gone.

"My diet is more controlled when I eat meat," Magazine says. "I'm less hungry later."

Beef producers are hoping that once Americans get a taste, they'll remain bullish on beef.