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Want a steak for Memorial Day grill? It’s going to cost you

Some meat prices are down, but steak prices are up.

A majority of the meats you grill on the Memorial Day grill will be cheaper this year, but those who like a good T-bone steak will pay a little more compared to last year.

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of grilling season and is a major holiday that drives sales, including meat sales, at local grocery stores.

Robert Bernhard, owner of Dot’s Market, which has two grocery stores in Dayton, said an unusually cold April appears to have led to pent up demand to cook out. Now that temperatures are finally up, he said the grocery shoppers are out.

“They are so happy to see nice weather that they get the grills out,” Bernhard said. “It really does well for us when weather is nice.”

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Prices are slightly higher than a year ago, Bernard said, and usually rise throughout the summer.

Ground beef in the U.S. cost an average of $3.73 per pound in April compared to $3.55 per pound the same time last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The average price for all types of steaks is $7.70 per pound compared to $7.28 last April.

Pork chops cost an average of $3.29 per pound compared to $3.44 per pound the year before. Boneless chicken breasts are at $3.24 per pound, slightly down from $3.29 per pound the year prior.

While there might be a higher supply of meat this year, there is a lower supply of high quality beef for grocery stores to stock, said Jack Gridley, Dorothy Lane Market vice president of Meat, Seafood, Deli and Prepared Foods.

At the same time, Gridley said incomes are improving and more consumers have the money to buy quality beef.

“For yourself, you may see less marbling. The meat is leaner, but at the same time there’s less flavor. There’s less tenderness,” he said.

Dorothy Lane, which operates three grocery stores in the area, has still been able to find high quality beef and hold their prices steady, but Gridley said it takes more work to find the right supplier.

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“It’s very difficult. If you’re looking for quality meat, you need to find a partner that also believes in that and raises cattle from birth to harvest and believes in doing it the old fashion way,” Gridley said.

Nielsen, a data analytic company, reported that out of the different types of meat, beef typically has the highest sales for the holiday weekend.

In 2016 — the latest year Nielsen had data for — beef sales topped $778 million for the two weeks ending June 4. Next up was chicken, with sales of more than $362 million, followed by pork, which generated $208 million over the same time frame.

Grilling season also drives other grocery shopping, with strong sales annually reported over Memorial Day weekend for vegetable trays, tomatoes, berries, and pre-cut fruit. The weekend is also traditionally the second most important holiday weekend in beer sales, second in dollars only to Fourth of July, Nielsen reported.

“The grill is out and it’s a time of the year where people want a good eating experience, so whether its simply hamburger to prime rib eye or New York strip steak, they want that eating experience to be great,” Gridley said.

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