Want a T-bone for Memorial Day grill? It’s going to cost you

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.

Price increases are common each spring as temperatures rise and often spike before each holiday, including Memorial Day, but usually drop afterward, said Steve Overberg, who has 42 years of experience in the butchering profession, 18 of them as owner of Steve’s Meat & Deli at 7967 Cincinnati Dayton Road in West Chester Twp.

While tenderloin prices jumped 20 cents a pound two weeks ago and 50 cents a pound last week, Overberg said he doesn’t move prices too much at his store.

“I just keep it the same if I can, unless it gets really out of control,” he said. “You don’t want to scare people off. It’s really difficult to raise prices even when you have to.”

Meat prices only moving a few cents at a time is a thing of the past.

“It’s like gas prices,” he said. “They can move a lot. They used to only move a few cents and now it can be 20 or 30 cents a pound, sometimes 50 cents a pound.”

Prices overall nationwide are just slightly higher than one year ago. 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.

Overberg said prices for New York Strips have gone up about $2 per pound in the past year and ribeyes $1 per pound.

Although industry prices are higher than what they were last year, “you can only go so high until people start freaking out,” he 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 Independence Day, Nielsen reported.

Overberg said his store typically sees at least a 30 percent sales boost as a result of the holiday weekend.

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