Diseases might affect beef prices

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 4/11/01.

With hoof and mouth disease and mad cow disease affecting European markets, farmers are experiencing some price increases and anticipating additional increases for their meat product. However, the grain markets might be affected adversely.

Jack Hennen, a Paynesville farmer who sells cattle all over the world, watches the markets closely. Countries who normally import meat from Europe are looking elsewhere, Hennen said. Australia meat is being imported to Europe instead of the United States. Canada is also exporting a record amount of beef to France. Japan is buying from the United States instead of Europe.

"Fat cattle prices have increased 10 to 12 cents per pound," he said.

The hog market was a break-even or even a losing proposition before, Hennen said. Now it is profitable as prices have jumped in February from 36 to 50 cents per pound.

Jim Salfer, Stearns County extension educator, said the disease in Europe should help the American meat markets but will hurt exports of grain products. With the slaughter of animals in Europe, there will be less animals to feed, thus less need for grain imports, Salfer said.

Another concern for American farmers is the possibility that the disease will spread here.

Hennen said some feedlot owners in the United States are reluctant to fill their lots, thinking it's only a matter of time before the disease reaches America.

"The United States is fortunate we have a good animal health system and we are segregated from other countries. When a disease like mad cow breaks out, it is less likely to reach here," Salfer added.

David Schrupp, manager of C&G Meats, Paynesville, agreed,"I feel the United States is pretty well protected, and it shouldn't reach us," he added.

Prices are up, Schrupp said, but he doesn't credit the disease abroad. "We had a year where not as many cattle went to market. Prices are up 10 to 15 cents per pound across the board, which is normal for this time of year because farmers held off marketing their animals," Schrupp said. Schrupp said the upcoming grilling season will raise prices more. The ultimate economic impact of the disease is unknown.

European demand is also down because people in Europe are afraid to eat meat for fear they will come down with the disease.

Hennen saids horses which are considered a delicacy in France, are not affected by the disease and prices for their meat has nearly doubled as people seek a safe alternative.

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