Extended drought means price of meat will likely rise next year

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WASHINGTON -- Farmers -- hit hard by this summer's extended drought and rising feed prices sent a higher-than-usual number of animals to slaughter last month. That means the price of meat will likely rise next year.

Meat has a pride of place at Jamie Stachowski's butcher shop in Washington. Ham, pastrami, steak -- it's all here.

"We love meat. We're a meat eating country and no matter what, people are going to find a way to get meat," Stachowski said.

With prices for pork and beef expected to rise next year, the long-time meat man says customers will have to pay more or get used to new cuts.

"What happened in the last increase is people went from eating a lot of prime rib to NY strips and the porterhouses -- and they went to eating secondary cuts," Stachowski said.

The coming sticker shock will impact not just butchers, but restaurants and dinner tables across the country. The worst drought in decades this summer means higher costs for animal feed and lower profits for farmers.

Julie Gray Stinar runs a small farm near the West Virginia border, where she raises hens, hogs and cattle. 1/3 of her costs goes toward animal feed, which is mostly corn and soy.

Prices for chicken and pig feed have skyrocketed since July.

"It was $14.77 on July 2nd. Now it's $16.79, so it's gone up by two dollars in two months. The pig pellet was 12.22 and now the pig pellet is 15.06, and it'll get a lot worse," Stinar said.

Stinar is now charging $1 a pound more for her sausage, pork chops and bacon, and plans to switch from corn-based hog feed to sorghum to save money.

"It's requiring a lot more creativity. You have to be really good at adapting," Stinar said.

Because Stinar doesn't raise broiler chickens -- the kind eaten in winter, she is hoping to avoid the worst of the price spike for their feed. Unlike most American farmers, she grass feeds her cattle -- meaning she won't have to worry about grain prices for them.

In Washington, Stachowski's customers are preparing themselves.

"The quality is worth it. I don't mind spending the money," one customer said.

"There is a limit to what any person would pay," another customer said.

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