It hasn’t yet, but it’s not out of the question, says Gregg Doud, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association chief economist. And if it happens, it’s likely that cattlemen will bear the brunt.

Cattlemen operate in an inelastic market, he says, meaning that in the short term, the producer pays the price when there’s no replacement for a commodity such as corn. Feedyards are currently losing $100 million/week in equity on fed cattle, he says. “When the banker tells that feedlot that it’s over, what’s going to happen? We contract.” And at some point in time, he adds, the red ink running in the feedyard sector will flow into the laps of the cow-calf producer.

In the long term, however, it’s the consumer who ultimately pays because economic forces cause the industry to shrink and prices to go up. “If you think we have food inflation now, we’re just getting warmed up,” he says.