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The drought is drying up the beef industry. Cargill said last week it's closing a Wisconsin beef plant that employs 600 people. Cargill bought the plant they are closing in 2001 and it can easily process between 1300 -1400 animals a day.

"The harsh reality is that the U.S. beef cattle herd is at its lowest level since 1951, with any significant herd expansion being years away," said John Keating, president of the company's Cargill Beef division in Wichita, Kan.

Cargill has six other cattle slaughter plants and closed one in Plainview Texas just last year because of the lack of cattle.

They aren't the only company cutting back. National Beef Packing said in January they were closing a California plant because of the shortage.

The problem has only been made worse as a result of feed prices. Ranchers have kept more female cattle so they could breed and rebuild their herds. So what that means for consumers -- those who eat meat, anyway -- is that the number of animals entering the food chain has dropped.

Anybody who has walked into a grocery store has noticed the prices have hit all-time highs. If you have been to a restaurant you may have noticed that someone shrunk your steak. "Pink slime" has made a comeback as well.
Yes, that finely textured beef which is a relatively low-cost beef ingredient made from processing slaughterhouse trimmings. It's been all the rage and not so much in a good way.

Cargill has promised to help displaced employees by offering to place them at other plants. Or maybe they can get a job in a tofu plant.

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