Monday, April 14, 2008

Corn at $6: what does this mean for pasture-raised meat?

Corn hit $6 a bushel last week, up 30% from a year ago and likely to rise higher according to government predictions.

What does this mean for those of us who are choosing pastured meats? I asked the farmers in my area I buy my pastured meats from if skyrocketing corn prices would affect farmers raising 100% grassfed animals.

David Simpkins of the Heirloom Beef Company in Adams County OH says yes:

Absolutely YES! We've seen a lot of acres that have normally been used for hay production being planted to corn. I think hay prices will be pretty high again this year. Not only the price of corn carrying other feeds higher, but the costs of fertilizers that go into hay production have gone through the roof.
Doug Weber of Weber Farms in Amelia OH agrees:
Yes, especially poultry. I supply my birds with a supplemental grain ration as well as pasture. The feed costs are skyrocketing. Hay is going up, corn is going up and gasoline is going up. All will bring about price increases in livestock and produce.
Trudy Mohr of Mohr Animal Acres in Urbana OH adds:
There are many other costs involved that have also increased. I know on my end, our processor has had significantly increased costs which I am trying to keep at minimum to my customers. Also, there are other feed supplements such as hay, mineral and probiotics that we feed to the livestock to maintain health so we do not have to feed antibiotics; all of which have increased in price. Most of these are due to fuel costs not corn costs, but these costs all seem to be tied together these days.

So I guess like industrial meat, prices for pastured meats are also going to be increasing.

I wonder if the silver lining here is that prices increasing to reflect actual costs of raising meat (rather than costs being subsidized by the government) will encourage all of us to treat meat as just another ingredient rather than as the star of the meal? We'll be healthier, and our diets will be more sustainable.


liberal foodie said...

Unfortunately for some consumers, the prices will hit new peaks and that means they'll have to become vegetarians, not by choice. Though I am not there yet, I've strongly considered converting for ethical reasons.

If I do it successfully, you'll hear about it. It hasn't happened yet.

valereee said...

Liberal Foodie, I was a vegetarian (well, near-vegetarian -- never could quite give up lobster when I was in Maine, shrimp when I was in SC, or BLTs in August) for ethical reasons -- primarily animal welfare concerns. When I discovered pastured meats, that pretty much solved the dilemma for me. It's not the killing of the animal that bothers me -- it's the lifetime of misery followed by terror-filled death.

vudutu said...

Val, I don't think there is any silver lining, as far as I know the corn subsidies are still in place. Our government is screwed up, run by lobbyist and special interest . Most Americans are blinds, led by the nose they think making fuel for Hummers out of food is a good thing and it makes them feel "Green!" I think this is just the beginning panic of a world food crisis, last year there were riots in Mexico over the high price of corn. Just today CNN has report on food riots around the world.

maybelles mom said...

This is exactly something one of the Cleveland Farmers mentioned when I spoke to them a few months ago. But, as vuduutu said, it is really about to be a giant problem. This farmer and I spoke about the economy of food having many built in safety nets. I.e. the whole mechanism is not necessarily ready to give up. And, what is equally sad is that many of the largest human consumers of corn products (in their variety) in American are the poor. What will happen to them?

valereee said...

Maybelles mom and vudutu, I've been watching the coverage of the food riots. Farmers in these countries of course want to sell their product for as much as they can, but that means they're selling so much of it to -us- that their own countrymen are going hungry. It's a terrible thing when hunger is caused by greed rather than crop failure.

Maybelle's mom, and the poor in this country are eating corn in so many different ways -- all that industrial food contains corn syrup, corn flour, corn oil.

maybelles mom said...

that is what i meant. I work with a people who eat so much corn (and actually soy too) through their fried chicken, fast food and ramen. And, they are going to be hit very hard, while many americans might now really feel the pinch with this shortage.