Mad Cow Impact

The sizzle of grilled hamburgers can be heard on a daily basis at Butcher Boy's Smokehouse and Deli in Nacogdoches. Hungry customers show no real concern of Mad Cow Disease. In the last year, owner Billy Huddleston has paid a premium to fill those appetites.

"Beef, especially your prime cuts like your steak cuts, were as high as I've ever seen them in the 20-something years I've been working. They were extremely high," said Huddleston.

But the cost of meat is beginning to come down. Oddly, Mad Cow may end up helping restaurant owners.

"If the prices go down, of course, it will help the restaurants, but we'll just have to wait and see when that is," said Huddleston.

Meat processors such as Clark's Meat Service have already noticed a pick-up in business. They're serving ranchers who see it pays more to put their beef in the freezer rather than on the auction block.

"Any time prices become lower for beef, cattle people tend to butcher their own cattle because it becomes economically more feasible for them, and also with the recent Mad Cow Disease scare they have more confidence that they've grown their own cattle. They know what they're getting," said Mark Clark.

Yet U.S. consumers are still wolfing down those burgers. Sales of hamburgers and steaks have been holding steady. If the demand continues, beef prices may continue to drop.