Cattle prices, already up 24% from a year ago, got another boost Tuesday from the blizzard over Iowa and the Northern Plains.

Cold weather generally causes cattle to gain weight more slowly, and supplies of cattle on feedlots in the U.S. have dropped to the lowest since at least the early 1970s, as producers respond to tougher economic conditions and higher feed costs.

Consumers so far have felt only modest effect of the price increases. While wholesale beef costs are up about 24% for packinghouses this year, the price of ground beef is up 10%, and Choice steak is up 7% from a year ago, according to surveys by the USDA and the Department of Labor.

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