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Beef prices rise

UNDATED (WSAU-Wheeler News)  Wisconsin shoppers are having a tough time finding their normal spring bargains for beef. A long-running drought in much of the West has created the nation's smallest cattle herd since 1951. With supplies down, prices have shot up for everything from basic burgers to rib-eye steaks.

Chip Bunzel, who co-owns a meat market in Milwaukee, said consumer beef prices often drop after the holidays -- but that didn't happen this year. Prices normally fall because Americans normally don't eat as much beef from New Year's until the start of the summer grilling season around Memorial Day.

Meanwhile, the U-S-D-A says the foreign demand for beef and other proteins has grown rapidly. U-W Madison associate professor Jeff Sindelar says it's due to the growth of the middle class in developing countries where more folks can finally afford a good steak. He says the higher worldwide demand has caused meat prices to jump up to 50-percent over the past 5-to-7 years. That's put even more pressure on U-S producers -- where many in the drought-stricken West have sold animals they can no longer afford to feed. As grassy pastures dry up, John Freitag of the Wisconsin Beef Council says the animals quote, "can't eat wind, water, and scenery."