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Cattle Prices Reach Restaurants

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS2/FOX28) As corridor couples make plans for Valentines Day, the price of a nice dinner keeps going up. Cattle prices are at record highs with no sign of coming back down. When the bill makes your wallet much lighter, it could make your steak taste just a little less juicy.

"I love to cook, said TJs Steakhouse Owner Jason Stourac. Customers make it more interesting for you. And I don't get bored of it."

But with cattle, that will eventually become beef, being sold for record high prices, Jason has had to charge his customers more, keeping people out of his steakhouse.

"They're not coming here as much as they used to, said Stourac. A lot of them used to come once a week, now it's just once a month."

"You can definitely see it in the sales because the seats are more open, said TJs Steakhouse customer Scotter Clark. There's no longer a waiting line right now in the restaurants."

Jasons problem starts on the farm. Between shortages of cattle, thanks to extreme winter weather, and increased foreign consumption, there's just a lot of dynamics in place right now that's really pushing the price of beef to an all-time high, said Johnson County Farmer Steve Swenka.

That increased demand means it'll cost more to get the cattle from the field and onto the grill and ultimately, onto a plate.

"Unfortunately, I have to stop the increases here in what I pay and not charge the customers any more because they won't come, said Stourac.

That means Jason has to cut into his profit margins to keep prices reasonable. He says on some cuts, he actually loses money.

Farmers say these record high prices do mean bigger pay days, but theyre mostly offset by increasing input costs, like feed and rent for grazing land.

"It's great to receive these kinds of prices but it's not the windfall that a lot of people think it is, said Swenka.

Bigger chain steakhouses say they generally arent affected by increases in beef prices because they have contracts that set prices for about a year and they buy in bulk.
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