WITH cattle prices skyrocketing and the national herd at its lowest ebb in more than 20 years, independent butchers across the country are starting to feel the heat.
In central west NSW, North Orange Meats owner Brad Baker has been soaking up price increases for the past month, but a 10 per cent hike in the past week is putting the pressure on.
"It's pretty massive at the moment and we knew it was going to happen, let's just hope it doesn't go too crazy."
Mr Baker, who has owned his butcher shop for the past five years, said he thought country people were more in touch with conditions on the land and expected prices to move.
"People are aware of the weather, they expect things to shift a bit and will seek out a special." At the moment rump steak is fetching $25 a kilogram at his store.
"People are still buying beef - meat is still pretty cheap out here compared with prices in the city," he said.
In Sydney, Tender Gourmet Butchery proprietor Adam Stratton is feeling the pinch too.
He has five Sydney shops and says beef is a lot more expensive in the city, because of butchers' overheads, but he focuses on value-adding.
Speaking from a meeting of six select butchers, the Australian contingent of the World Butcher's Challenge, Mr Stratton was creating new lines that should be available at shops across Australia within three years.
Uber Eats has become a major competitor, so butchers are thinking outside the square to create products people can cook quickly on the go.
Back out in the NSW Riverina town of Finley, things are tight at Ashley Haynes Butchery.
Mr Haynes buys from the fortnightly Finley cattle sales and with increasing prices it is getting harder to absorb the costs.
While people are opting for cheaper cuts of meat, it's the strong prices at the saleyards that are propping farmers up in these tough times.
But it's a question of what price will prove the breaking point for hard-working Aussie families?