As the grilling season kicks off this Memorial Day weekend, amateur grill masters will see some deals on burgers, steaks and chicken prices at area groceries and butcher stores.
Meat prices have dropped slightly from last year and are expected to remain steady throughout the summer season as livestock herds continue to recover from a devastating drought in 2012. Ground beef cost an average of about $3.68 per pound in April, a decrease from $3.82 at the same time last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Other meats prices also are dropping. Pork chops decreased in price, averaging about $3.44 per pound compared to $3.70 at the same time in 2016. Chicken cost $1.44 per pound in April, while about $1.50 last year. Turkey saw a slight increase last month, costing $1.60 per pound compared to $1.49 in April 2016.
Joe Neuhauser, general manager of the meat department at Dorothy Lane Market in Oakwood, said customers are getting good deals on prime cuts for the summer season. As the economy continues to recover, he said customers are reaching for more expensive cuts of meats including New York strip steak and rib eye steak.
“We’re definitely getting busier,” he said. “It has been picking up.”
During holiday weekends like Memorial Day, the store prepares by adding additional staff in the meat department and increasing the orders for popular grilling meats like hamburger grind and steaks. Customers will also see good deals on beef tenderloin this weekend, he said.
“We shouldn’t have a shortage this year,” he said.
Popularity for grilling fluctuates depending on the season, Neuhauser said. If it’s a rainy summer, people are less likely to get outside and grill themselves — that’s when they come to market to get their meats grilled for them. A popularity in cooking shows and websites like Pinterest have also brought more people into the store who want to replicate a recipe they’ve seen online or on television, he said.
According to the Department of Agriculture, retail prices for ground beef are continuing to drop slightly after prices skyrocketed in 2015. Industry leaders predict prices will not drastically decrease within the next year, but are not likely to increase in coming months.
Ten years ago, ground beef averaged $2.24 per pound, but prices started to increase each month starting in 2011. An extensive drought in 2012 decimated pastures, depleting feed supplies for cattle herds. A decrease in the size of herds caused retail beef prices to hit an all-time high in February 2015, USDA data showed.
In comparison, the pork industry rebounded faster after the drought. Though high feed prices depleted the hog and cattle inventory, hog production rebounded faster than cattle due to length of life cycles, according to the USDA.
Economists and industry experts are predicting that the low prices and rebounding popularity are here to stay. Over the past 10 years, beef consumption in the U.S. dropped by 15 percent, pork consumption fell by 4 percent, while chicken consumption increased by about 5 percent. The drops were driven by skyrocketing prices, according to the USDA.
But meat consumption is likely to shift over the next decade as prices decline and production of beef and pork continue to grow, according to Flavius Badau, economist for the Agricultural Policy and Models Branch in the USDA Market and Trade Economic division.
Beef production and pork production are projected to grow by 11.7 percent and 10.3 between 2016 and 2025. Prices for beef are expected to drop by 10.6 percent and pork by 11.6 percent in the period, Badau said.
Emily Bir, spokeswoman for the Ohio Pork Advisory, said consumer demand has a lot to do with the season — and grillers can buy and grill pork chops for good prices int he coming summer months.
“Pork is an easy meat to grill,” she said. “People are making sandwiches out of it, using it on salads and it’s just an easy meat to make light summer recipes with. It’s just a great time to get out and grill.”