The recession of the last couple of years is easing. And, as it does, it's helping the cattle market claw out of the hole it was in earlier this year and last year.

Though other factors are in play in the marketplace, the reason for the return to $100/cwt. price levels is due mostly to the recovering economy and resulting boost in consumer confidence.

"Beef production in the United States so far this year has been down 1%. A somewhat higher rate of slaughter has been more than offset by lower cattle weights. But there are even more important reasons to explain why cattle prices are so strong," says Purdue University ag economist Chris Hurt. "The result of modestly smaller U.S. production with such strong exports and reduced imports is that first quarter available beef supplies per person in the U.S. were down about 5%."

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