Thousands of U.S. ranchers are being forced to sell their cattle as grass and water supplies continue to shrink due to extreme weather conditions. A horrific drought is devastating large swathes of the Southwest, leaving ranchers in “panic mode” as they struggle to keep their herds alive. Many of them are rushing to sell all their livestock because they don’t have any other options. The situation is raising major concerns about our domestic meat production, and it’s threatening our ability to feed ourselves in 2023 and beyond. Local reports describe that North Texas has become the epicenter of this crisis, and thousands of ranchers are being forced to make some really difficult decisions. Thanks to the abnormally dry weather, there isn’t enough grass and water supplies for the herds, and ranchers are selling off cattle by the thousands before conditions get even worse. Typically, when extreme weather starts affecting cattle feed, ranchers usually give them hay instead. But that’s not something they can afford to do anymore. Prices of hay have shot up by 56% over the past year, according to a June report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. Cattle producers are estimated to have lost money in the past two months, according to a cost-and-return analysis from Iowa State University. In other words, even if they can find hay for sale it has become so expensive that it is simply not economical. Bridgeport rancher Jarrod Montford is one of the thousands who’ve had to sell his cattle due to the high costs to keep them fed. “It’s gonna hurt and it’s gonna hurt bad,” Montford said. “It’s a strain. And sometimes you have to sell some cattle to keep a few.” Others are deciding to sell their entire herds because they ran out of options. In central Texas, the supply of hay is so small that many don’t even have alternative ways to keep their cattle alive, and hot temperatures are making ranchers fear that some of the older cattle may not survive until the end of the season. According to Bloomberg, this means that in the short term a flood of beef will come into the supply chain.
But in the long-term, next year’s meat supply will be compromised by a shortage of cattle. One thing most Americans don’t think about very often is where the meat they eat on daily basis actually comes from. And something we never really think about is the fact that a very small number of ranchers are responsible for feeding the entire country. But as the Texas rancher Jarrod Montford has pointed out, we rely upon a very small sliver of the population to feed all the rest of us. “1.6, 1.7% of the population feeds the rest. It’s not how bad are we at the end of the day,” Monfort said. “It’s the fact that if we don’t survive, our nation fails,” Montford emphasizes.
All of this is happening at a time when the UN is warning about the worst global food crisis in decades. Approximately 24 million Americans are already experiencing food insecurity, and famines are starting to erupt all around the globe while food supplies get tighter and tighter with each passing day. For years, people who worked in the food industry have been raising the alarm about this worsening situation and asking our leaders to take action to reverse or mitigate some of these worrying trends before it was too late. But nobody wanted to listen to what they had to say, and now, this is where we are. At this point, if you can stock up on meat before prices go through the roof, we advise you to do so, because meat prices won’t come back to where they are right now for quite some time.
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