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Beef prices on the rise as Oklahoma grilling season arrives

Beef prices have gone up every month since 2011, according to the federal consumer price index.
by Jennifer Palmer Published: May 30, 2013

As summer grilling season heats up, consumers may notice the price of beef is on the rise.

Overall beef prices have trended up each month since 2011 on the Bureau of Labor Statistics' consumer price index.

April's average price of ground beef was $3.27 a pound, up 9 percent compared with 2012. For USDA choice boneless sirloin steak, shoppers are paying about $6.86 a pound, an increase of more than 5 percent from a year before. And wholesale prices, or the amount meatpackers charge sellers for beef, reached an all-time high in April.

Food retailers are hesitant to pass these costs on to consumers, especially now as demand peaks for summer barbecues, said Ricky Volpe, an economist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Retailers are doing their best to pass these cost increases on as minimally and slowly as possibly,” he said.

Cattle inventory is at its smallest level in six decades, the result of ranchers liquidating much of their herds during years of drought. But consumers' taste for beef has remained stable in the U.S. and it's increasing globally, Volpe said.

That has caused classic inflation: low supply, high demand.

He predicts cattle inventories to bulk up and respond to the market, but it will take time. So beef prices are expected to continue to rise through 2014.

Where's the ... chicken?

Nationwide, consumers are shifting away from beef and pork to poultry, which has historically experienced less inflation, Volpe said.

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by Jennifer Palmer
Investigative Reporter
Jennifer Palmer joined The Oklahoman staff in 2008 and, after five years on the business desk, is now digging deeper through investigative work. She's been recognized with awards in public service reporting and personal column writing. Prior to...
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Retailers are doing their best to pass these cost increases on as minimally and slowly as possibly.”

Ricky Volpe,
U.S. Department of Agriculture economist


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