KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Beef prices reached their highest level in 30 years. The average retail price for beef jumped to more than $5 per lb., almost 25 cents higher than prices in January and the highest since 1987, according to news reports. Shrinking supplies of cattle and export demand from Asia are driving price increases with little relief in sight.

Persistent drought conditions followed by severe winter weather have resulted in the smallest US cattle herd in more than 60 years. The US Department of Agriculture's Jan. 31 Cattle report indicated cattle and calves totaled 87.7 million as of Jan. 1, 2014, down 2 percent from 89.3 million from a year ago and the lowest Jan. 1 inventory of all cattle and calves since the 82.1 million head recorded in 1951.

Beef production in 2014 was forecast by the USDA to decline for the fourth consecutive year, to 24,403 million lbs., down 5 percent from 2013 and down 7 percent from 2010.

USDA anticipated an increase in pork and poultry production. But the spread of the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) has killed millions of piglets causing pork prices to increase. Retail prices for poultry also have increased.