Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

The statistics from Oregon State University are, in a sense, the happy corollary to the angry muttered chorus of customers surveying the meat case at the grocery store.

Beef prices have been high, by historic standards, for a couple years now.

This can make checking out a rather stressful experience.

But from a macroeconomic standpoint, the situation is more promising.

Raising beef cattle is a major business in Baker County.

Agriculture is the county's most lucrative industry, and cattle and calves, accounting for 61 percent of gross sales, constitute by a wide margin the biggest segment of that industry.

According to OSU, Baker County's beef cattle sales totaled $50 million in 2011.

That's $8 million more than the previous year, and a record high.

These statistics, of course, are especially welcome for ranchers, who are producers as well as consumers of beef.

But the financial benefits are not restricted to cattle owners.

Most of the county's cattle are owned by people who live here. They shop at local stores, eat in local restaurants and buy fuel from local stations.

Like rainwater that refills aquifers and streams alike, ranchers' money percolates through the local economy.

Not everyone gets a share, of course.

There's no local discount applied to your grocery bill to account for the multiplier effect.

Yet neither is it hyperbole to say that, in general, what's good for the beef business is good for Baker County's economy.

Right now, things are very good indeed.

We hope the trend continues, and that the beneficial effects spread far enough to soothe the sting when a rack of steaks or a package of hamburger rings up at the till.