Fire Up the Barbecue? Drought Will Bring on Cheaper Meat Prices for a Spell

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This summer’s historic drought is bound to yield rising prices at the supermarket. The awful harvest of corn and soybeans is causing their prices to soar, and since they’re utilized in so many other foods—cereal, soda, feed for cattle and chickens—the effects are much broader than corn on the cob that costs about the same as caviar. Interestingly, though, at least for a brief period, meat prices are likely to shrink.

In the long run, more expensive feed for chickens, pigs, and cattle means more expensive meat. Period. But in the immediate future, the rising price of feed is causing farmers to “liquidate cattle and pigs in the next few weeks,” reports USA Today. As the supply of meat increases in the near term, prices will drop at supermarkets.

(MORE: When the Rain Stops: The Historic Drought’s Impact on America)

The price decrease is expected to be short-lived, and by early winter, a reversal is likely to take place, with a tight market and high prices for meat. It is even expected that some farmers will simply quit the business once their cattle are “liquidated.”

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently offered pretty much the same analysis and timeline on what’s expected in terms of meat prices:

For a while, at least, there could be a surplus of meat at the grocery store.

“This is your last chance to get cheap beef,” said Walter Breitinger, a commodities futures trader in Valparaiso, Ind.

Once the surplus is gone and the marketplace adjusts, prices are likely to climb.

(MORE: 10 Things That Cost Way More Outside the U.S.)

The scenario, in which it’s all but guaranteed that beer and pork prices will be dramatically higher just in time for Christmas and New Year’s parties, seems to suggest the wisdom of stocking up on meat now while it’s cheap.

To do that, of course, a large freezer is necessary. When food prices skyrocketed in 2008, many consumers reacted by purchasing freezers in order to store bulk-size meat and vegetable purchases before prices rose again.

(MORE: Why Are So Many People Freezing Food?)

Consumer Reports has speculated that the current drought could again spur on a frenzy of freezer sales, and, conveniently, offers tips on making a smart freezer purchase. “Chest freezers cost less, plus they offer more usable space than uprights and they’re less likely to cause freezer burn,” CR advises. “But they’re harder to organize than uprights, which have shelves and bins like what you see in a typical fridge.”

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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Rochelleekd
Rochelleekd

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