Steak and burgers cost more these days. Drought can keep prices high for years.
The brown hills of Northern California are dotted with cattle. They spend their days meandering slowly in the sun, munching on the parched grass.
Livestock is California’s fourth-largest agricultural product, valued at $2.74 billion in 2020, according to the state’s agricultural department. But the increasingly dry conditions make the land less and less suitable for feeding and watering them. In March 2021, every pond on Scott Stone’s ranch was dry for the first time in his family’s 46 years of ownership.
“It’s not pretty,” Stone, who keeps a large herd of about 650 cows at his Yolo Land & Cattle Co. ranch, told Insider.
It’s not pretty for consumers either. The cost of beef in US cities rose sharply from March 2021 to March 2022, rising 16.7% for steaks and 25.4% for other beef. The price of steak peaked at $10.23 a pound in November, and ground beef hit its own high of $5.41 a pound in April.