At Cattlemen's Livestock Auction in Lakeland, auctioneer Ken Raney has paraded tens of thousands of cattle before eager buyers.
Though the cattle are largely the same, the prices are not.
"I have been selling cattle basically all my life," he says. "I have never seen anything like this."
Raney auctions cows to middlemen, who ship them across the U.S. and the world.
It takes a year for cattle to go from sale item to the grocery store.
"We sell quality, grain-fed beef that people want everywhere," he says.
The Department of Agriculture says in the last five years, grocery store beef prices are up more than a third. And in the last year, prices beat their own record, up more than ten percent.
"The starting price here for a 500-pounder used to be $500. Now they're $1,000 and up," Raney says.
The USDA says supply is down because of the 2012 drought that hit the southwest. Prices of grain and fuel went up, and ranchers slowed down on breeding.
Even worse, exports are up too, to Japan, Hong Kong and Mexico.
"You have a good product, everybody wants it worldwide, they can't get it anywhere but the United States of America," Raney explains.
Local shoppers feel the impact, especially as chicken and fish also reach all-time highs.
"I go to the meat markets, I go into different places trying to get good prices," said Crystal Nethercutt, of Lakeland.
Nethercutt got cube steaks at Publix today for $10.
"Probably wouldn't have paid more than $3 a piece a few years ago," she says.
The USDA says she's correct in assuming prices will go even higher. They predict another six percent increase by 2014's end.
But she'll keep buying.
"Every night, I always cook a big meal for my family," said Nethercutt. "Everyone goes to work, goes to school. Dinnertime's a big thing in our house."
Prices of chicken are up 10 cents a pound in the last year.
The Bureau of Labor statistics has an overall measurement of the price of meat, poultry and fish. That went up by an entire percentage point last month, after going up an entire point the month before that.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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