Three years after the worst dry spell on record for Texas, fourth-generation rancher Stayton Weldon still doesn’t have enough water for his 300 cattle near Cuero, about 89 miles (143 kilometers) southeast of San Antonio. Dry grass on his 2,600 acres (1,052 hectares) has no nutrition. He has lost 22 cows and two bulls in the past year.
The cattle herd in the U.S. may be the smallest since 1958, when McDonald’s Corp. had just 79 hamburger restaurants, signaling tighter beef supplies and higher costs for companies including Tyson Foods Inc.
The Henningsen Cold Storage Co. warehouse in Stilwell, Oklahoma, was so jammed with frozen turkeys from the likes of Butterball LLC and Cargill Inc. this year that manager Scott Mayberry turned down requests to store about 1 million more birds, or double his inventory.
U.S. meat consumers are swapping premium steaks for cheaper ground beef as concern for high unemployment and slower economic growth forces families to trim their food budgets, according to industry researcher CattleFax.
Texas cattle ranchers, the biggest suppliers in the world’s top beef-producing nation, will cull the most breeding cows ever this year as drought increases feed costs, driving livestock prices to a record.