Barbecue burn-out: Meat, other prices are burning a hole in shopper's pockets.

7/11/2014

By ASHLEY BOOKER

By ASHLEY BOOKER

abooker@gctelegram.com

As Ann Delgado was grocery shopping on Friday, she seemed to notice the same occurring theme — higher meat prices. She's been used to buying a certain brand of pork sausage for years, and after seeing its 60-cent increase, she made a strategic substitution. She went with turkey breast sausage instead, which was $1.50 cheaper.

"Hopefully my husband won't notice the difference," Delgado said laughing.

Delgado isn't the only one who has noticed the latest trend for meat prices. Many others are seeing the same thing, and relief doesn't look to be lurking around the corner.

Third-quarter U.S. beef production is expected to be the lowest in 20 years, according to the latest projections.

"Part of that is due to the continuing drought for years out here in the plains, so you have a reduction in the cow herd," said Bret Crotts, a consultant for Schwieterman Inc. "When there's fewer cows, there's fewer calves, fewer calves mean less beef."

Over the past 10 years, beef prices have increased an inflation adjusted 44 percent, according to research firm Rabo AgriFinance.

Beef isn't alone. Pork prices have increased as well. Crotts says usually beef and pork prices are independent, but this year a PED disease is killing pigs, so both prices are increasing.

The latest CPI data shows a 2.4 percent climb in prices from April to May. Bacon jumped 5.1 percent over the same period. Prices for pickles, bread, lettuce, ice cream, chips — all barbecue staples — have also increased.

The increased prices aren't expected to turn downard on a dime either.

Grocers like Garden City resident Irma Moreno, have seen meat prices increase, even from her last visit to the store a week ago.

"The prices have gone up, up, up, but, our salary is still the same," Moreno said.

Although she continues to see price increases, she remains optimistic, because others like her are still managing to get by.

Instead of buying pricey pork or beef products, Moreno has found more-economic forms of protein, like chicken or fish — especially tilapia.

"It still tastes good," Moreno said, smiling.

Sharla Huseman, a marketing director with the Kansas Beef Council, says despite higher prices of meat, shoppers are still putting beef in their shopping carts.

"We do see that beef demand still remains strong, and, for consumers there are a variety of meats in the meat case to choose from," Huseman said.

There are different value cuts of beef that shoppers can choose from, and when beef prices are high, consumers tend to be attracted to these cuts of meat, Huseman said.

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