Where's the (Cheap) Beef? US Prices Soar Cattle population at 1951 levels By Matt Cantor, Newser User Posted Apr 9, 2014 12:25 PM CDT 78 comments Comments Beef prices are at a record high. (Shutterstock) (Newser) – Another downside of weird weather: Beef prices have hit a record high. "All-fresh" USDA choice-grade beef had a retail value of $5.28 a pound in February; the year before, it was $4.28. A few years before that, in 2008, it was just $3.97. At about 87.7 million, the US cattle population hasn't been this small since 1951—and back then, the human population was about half what it is today, the Los Angeles Times notes. The forecast? "Beef prices should remain at near-record highs this year and into 2015," says a USDA rep. It could take about two years to restore herd sizes, Yahoo! Finance reports, per USDA economists. It's all tied to drought, which sends feed prices upward, the Times explains. And it's a particular issue for small businesses, says a beef supplier. Blame hamburgers, he notes: Small businesses struggle to get the beef they want when slaughterhouses prioritize their larger customers—like fast food companies. "You take all the McDonald's and Burger Kings across the United States; the amount of meat needed to make those hamburgers is forcing the value of other cuts of meat to go up," he says. But even those restaurants are feeling the burn, and dollar menus could be the victim, the Times notes.