The prices of pork, beef and veal have recently risen more than few other goods. Although triggered by the Ukraine war, meat prices will probably not fall again without it. Farmers have too many problems to deal with.

12 percent more for pork, beef and veal. The schnitzel or steak on the plate has become significantly more expensive since January alone. On an annual basis, there is even an increase of 16 to 19 percent, depending on the type of meat. Although the Ukraine war caused an acute upswing in prices, meat prices would probably rise steadily even without the military conflict in Eastern Europe. The industry has to deal with several trends that will probably never reverse.

The current price increase is due to an increase in the price of animal feed and the transport of animals and meat. After all, farmers, slaughterhouses and supermarkets also have to run their cars on diesel and petrol, heat farms and factories on gas and drive their machines on electricity. In addition, the Ukraine and Russia are important export countries for high-quality feed, especially for those that are required for organic requirements in Germany. They occur there as a by-product in the production of vegetable oils.

Because the two export nations disappear from the world market, prices inevitably rise. “Four weeks ago I paid 24 euros per 100 kilos for a delivery of feed. Now there are almost 40 euros per 100 kilos,” Hubertus Berges, a pig farmer from the Cloppenburg district in Lower Saxony, told the Tagesschau. This corresponds to an increase of 67 percent.

If the war in Ukraine ends, animal feed prices are likely to fall again from their current level. However, since the trend is towards more organic meat, the farmers basically have to buy more expensive feed for it.

In Germany, extreme weather conditions have so far not been a major problem for cattle breeding. It’s different around the world. In East Africa, a long-lasting drought has been threatening agriculture for more than six months. In Canada, too, the pastures withered after a dry phase last year. In some cases, the drought is already in its third year here. In Argentina, wildfires killed around 700,000 cattle in February and March. Elsewhere in the country, droughts have resulted in a shortage of calves.

These are examples that will multiply with a warming earth in the years to come. Extreme weather does not always directly threaten livestock farming. It often only leads to slumps in grain harvests. But since it is also used for animal feed, less is left for livestock.

Tens of thousands of chickens fell victim to avian influenza in Germany last November. 38 million birds died or had to be killed worldwide. African swine fever has been raging in Asia for years and has decimated pig populations, particularly in China. Epidemics run through the world’s animal populations every year. Due to the often still cramped cages, viruses and bacteria have an easy time spreading. If a stock is infected, thousands of animals in an area often have to be killed as a precaution.

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This consumes the possible supply of meat on the market. It also creates problems beyond meat production. The avian influenza in Germany also killed numerous hens whose eggs are now missing. Result: Egg prices have risen the most since the beginning of the year.

Even if meat prices have risen significantly recently, meat is still a comparatively cheap product – at least if you ask farmers. Especially in Germany, many farms hardly see any prospects, especially when it comes to the conventional husbandry of pigs, cattle and calves. More and more animal welfare requirements mean that although the welfare of the animals is improved, many farmers also have to invest in order to meet the requirements. Higher animal protection requirements are certainly justified, but they also come with higher costs, which will ultimately end up with the customer in the form of higher prices.

The fact that meat prices are rising should be fine with a not inconsiderable and constantly growing part of the German population. After all, the trend – not only in this country, but in many developed countries – is towards eating less or no meat at all and viewing it more as a luxury product. Meat consumption per capita is already 14 percent lower today than it was in 1991. It has been falling every year since 2018. For this year, agricultural experts even expect a decline of up to ten percent – due to the high prices.

The movement for more vegetarianism and animal welfare could ultimately turn meat into a product that is produced with more effort and is therefore expensive to eat.

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