Fourth of July grillers may have to pay more for their steaks this year than they have in more than two decades.

Cookouts expected to cost more this Fourth of July: Meat prices go up

Fourth of July grillers may have to pay more for their steaks this year than they have in more than two decades.

Roughly 86 percent of Americans plan to celebrate Independence Day this year, including 61 percent with a cookout, barbeque or picnic, according to the National Retail Federation. They’ll likely spend about $73 per person on food, including popular holiday meats for grilling.

Those meats typically cost more during summer holidays because consumers will buy them no matter the cost, said Sam Custer, an agriculture educator for Darke County’s OSU Extension. This year, most meat prices are likely to be higher than last year.

Meat Prices     
Fourth of July cookouts could be more costly as meat prices per pound increase over last year.     
 20152016201720182019
Ground beef$4.65 $4.30 $4.08 $4.08 $4.28
Steak$7.77 $7.76 $7.32 $7.64 $7.80
Chicken breast$3.41 $3.25 $3.21 $3.08 $3.09
Pork Chops$3.79 $3.72 $3.43 $3.28 $3.44
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics    

“African Swine Flu in China has driven up pork prices, and if we drive up any (meat price), whether it’s poultry, beef or pork, the others kind of follow along because people are making alternative choices,” Custer said.

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Since Aug. 3 more than 1.3 million hogs have been slaughtered to prevent the further spread of the deadly flu, sending pork prices soaring, according to the Food and Agriculture Organizations of the United Nations.

Pork chops at $3.44 per pound were 16 cents more expensive in May than the same month last year. Steak at $7.90 per pound was also 16 cents more than last year, and the highest May price across two decades of data, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. 

Ground beef saw the biggest jump, from $4.08 per pound in May 2017 to $4.28 this year, according to the USDA. Boneless chicken breast is about the same price at an average $3.09 per pound, according to USDA.

The price of red meat is also rising as demand increases. While it was previously thought that eating red meat was less healthy than eating white meat, new studies suggest that all meats have the same health impact, and popular diets that focus on fresh meat encourage more beef consumption, Custer said.

Prices could also be on the rise as people begin anticipating meat price hikes next year resulting from expected feed shortages caused by record delays in corn and soybean planting, Custer said. Most of the corn and beans grown in Ohio are used for ethanol and livestock feed.

But not all meat prices follow the same market trends, said Jack Gridley, director of meat and seafood at Dorothy Lane Market. The niche markets that sell antibiotic- and hormone-free cuts usually don’t follow the same market swings.

“You’re going to see some good values on some beef products for the Fourth of July on high quality,” Gridley said. “Through genetics, there is more beef coming out that is USDA Prime. A higher percentage of the beef is grading prime, so when you have an abundance of it, then you’re able to pass on some opportunities in the form of sales, good sales pricing, and that’s what we’re seeing.”

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Dot’s market, which also sells antibotic-free meat with no added solutions, is running meat ads at the same price this year as last, said Nick Moshos, owner of the Kettering location.

“Fourth of July is actually second to Christmas as far as sales go for a meat department,” Moshos said. “This is our time to shine.”

Dot’s puts extra workers in the meat department during the holiday to help handle extra sales, Moshos said. The store’s meats are all antibiotic-free and have no added solutions.

These price spikes come after a few years of meat price declines as the market recovered from a shortage that hiked prices in 2012. Prices were elevated until 2015 when they began the slow descent to pre-drought levels.

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