Interest in beef production is high in part because of record-high prices producers have been fetching, yet some producers have concerns about rising prices for feedstuff and gasoline, which could make consumers less likely to buy pricey cuts, an Ohio State University Extension expert says.

"There's a lot of enthusiasm because of what animals are worth at the market, but input prices such as fuel, feed and fertilizer are still an issue," said John Grimes, beef coordinator for OSU Extension.

Grimes spoke recently at the Ohio Beef Expo, sponsored by the Ohio Cattlemen's Association. The event, in its 25th year, is the single largest event in the state devoted to cattle producers.

He said the overall outlook for U.S. beef is good for the next few years, with trade with Canada, Mexico, Japan and South Korea remaining strong. In addition, the rise in the growth of upscale hamburger chains has led to increased demand for higher-quality beef.

But Grimes cautioned that rising consumer costs, including gasoline prices, could influence spending.

"So we have a home for our product, but challenges are there," he said. "The biggest concern is pricing ourselves out of the market. Could the prices get so high that the consumer is going to push back?"

While that hasn't happened yet, Grimes said, it could.

"Who knows?" he said. "If gas prices go over $4 a gallon, that's going to have a big effect on consumer spending because of concerns about disposable income. Will they be able to afford the higher-priced steaks?"