As U.S. beef cattle herds and calf crop figures plummet, per-pound beef production continue to climb.  Industry experts point to relatively cheap feed grains to explain the fatter animals.

The Winter 2011 edition of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau’s Oklahoma Country magazine reported the U.S. cattle industry turned fewer cattle into more pounds of beef in 2010. According to, the 2010 U.S. beef cattle herd dropped to its lowest level since John F. Kennedy was in the White House. 2010 calf crop figures are expected to be the lowest since Harry Truman was president.

Derrell Peel, an OSU Cooperative Extension livestock marketing specialist, said the situation has changed.

“Grain prices, partly due to the influence of taxpayer-subsidized ethanol production, rose to the point where producers moved cattle through the feedlot faster,” Peel said. “The inevitable result of having fewer cattle slaughtered at lower weights is higher beef prices.”

Oklahoma Country also reported that declining inventories “are causing some in the U.S. cattle industry to wonder how beef production can be maintained.”

The nation’s beef cow herd has decreased in 12 of the last 14 years. U.S. beef consumption has also been decreasing.