You may have noticed your bill getting a little higher at the grocery store, especially if you're buying meat. That's because beef and cattle prices are at a record high.

Wolf Pack Meats is a local company that has between 600-700 head of cattle throughout the year. That number is staying steady but it is dropping, nationwide. 

The United States Department of Agriculture says there were about 89-million cattle in the country, last year. That is the lowest it has been, since 1952. "A major part of the beef is getting exported out of the country," Mike Holcomb, Wolf Pack Meats Plant Manager said. "They're willing to pay a premium for it. So, that's making the price go up. And I think with this drought going on right now, prices are going to still go up."

Holcomb says there are many factors for the smaller cattle population.

The drought is limiting forage on rangeland, which is raising the price of feed. Feed that is already in short supply.

He also says there are fewer feedlots and slaughter plants. "There's some major plants in the country that are shut down, that are used to slaughtering 5,000 head of cows a day," Holcomb said. "They can't do anything right now. They've been shut down for over a year."

Ground beef is about $5 per pound.

But steak is running closer to $15 per pound.

"Just because we have higher prices doesn't actually mean there's going to be a decrease in the demand for beef," Bob Conrad, Nevada Department of Agriculture Public Information Officer said. "However, what we're seeing, nationwide, is that consumers are actually willing to pay the price for the beef."

But with these higher prices, you could see a shift in what kinds of meat people buy. "It's estimated that in the next couple of years, poultry and pork, you'll see an increase in demand for those products but you'll also see a continuation of beef consumption," Conrad said.

Holcomb says he thinks consumers will continue to pay more for beef but says it won't have much of an effect on local beef suppliers. "Your little local guys, I feel are still going to be doing okay because people are willing to pay because they want to know where their product came from," Holcomb said.

Holcomb says we still haven't seen how much the drought will affect prices.

He says that will be more clear once summer comes and we see what the water supply looks like.

Written by Paul Nelson