Beef prices hurt shoppers, businesses

Meat prices up

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – It's costing steak lovers across the US a lot more money to fire up the grill.

The cost of beef is at an all-time high. The average price for a pound of ground beef at the store last month was $3.51 and $4.81 for steaks. It's a new high according to economists.

Local shoppers like Jeff Wallace are feeling the pinch. He's already cut down on steak nights at his home.

"Maybe once of week instead of two to three times you know. You can't afford it," said Wallace.

But local consumers aren't the only ones hurting. Those in the beef business are struggling and trying to keep from passing the higher prices onto customers.

"Our strip steaks have gone up $2 a pound over the last three weeks. But, I don't want to raise my retail cost because I don't want to pass too much on to my customer," said Al Henriks, owner of J and J's Butcher Shop in Murrells Inlet.

Henricks says the sharp rise in the cost of beef is a growing problem he's followed closely. According to economists, the steep prices are the result of last year's drought in the Midwest. Dry conditions harmed the plant crops cows eat and ultimately hurt the cattle population. The current US cattle and calf herd is at its lowest level since 1952.

"If there's less cattle, then there's less supply and that drives the price up," explained Henriks

Local restaurants are also paying a lot more for beef, but holding back from changing menu prices.

"We've been absorbing that cost and as it's increased, we've been going with the prices we have, and try to trim where we have to," said Chef Bradley Daniels of Croissants Bistro and Bakery in Myrtle Beach.

If the high price of beef doesn't let up, businesses may also be forced to bump up their prices.

"If it continues to rise, we have to pass that long to the guests, unfortunately," added Daniels.

"If it continues on this trend then I'm going to have to raise my prices just to stay in business. I already hang on by a thread as it is," said Henriks.

Economists say it could be a while before the cost of beef starts to come down. They expect the high prices to stick around through the end of the year.

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