The cost of your Fourth of July cookout is shooting up like a firecracker this year.
That's because the price of ground beef has hit a record price of $3 a pound nationwide. Just a couple of years ago, it was $1.50 a pound.
Butchers say there are three reasons for this year's price hike.
The biggest reason for the jump in prices is the country's shrinking cattle herd. The number of beef cattle in the U.S. is now at its lowest point since 1952, before chain restaurants McDonald's, Wendy's and Burger King took off.
Several years of western droughts, which led to mass slaughters, have convinced ranchers to raise fewer cattle. That way, they don't deplete the farm's water or feed as much. But there is now less beef supply.
Call it what you want, but the "pink slime" controversy has forced schools and supermarkets to eliminate the filler used in its most inexpensive ground beef.
As a result, there really isn't any inexpensive ground beef anymore.
More Beef Exports
With the dollar strong compared to most of the world's currency, ranchers often make more money exporting their beef to other countries rather than sell it here.
In addition, the ban on U.S. beef after the mad cow scare has expired in many countries, so they are buying U.S. beef again.
Put it all together, and you have higher beef prices, and especially higher ground beef prices.
However, with an 8-ounce filet mignon now averaging $10 in supermarkets, the price of ground still feels cheap by comparison.
As always, don't waste your money.
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John Matarese finds dozens of new, higher price stickers on JCPenney's merchandise.