Beef prices hit all time high: what you can do

Don't Waste Your Money

UPDATED 6/17/14:

More bad news for food lovers.

The price of beef is now at an all time high, while viruses are sending pork and shrimp prices to 10 year highs.  And chicken is no bargain, either.

Grade A wholesale beef hit $5.50 a pound on June 15th, which is 75% higher than it was in 2008, and a record high. 

That translates to steak at the grocery store priced from $10 to $25 a pound, depending on the cut.

How to Fight Back

We went to a butcher shop a few weeks ago, to find some ways to save on beef, but still have a good steak to grill.

Josh Lillas works at his family's generations-old butcher shop, Eckerlin Meats.

Lately, he spends a lot of time time explaining to customers like Bill Thon why prices are so high.

"I have noticed prices have has gone up about 30% or so," Thon said.

Drought, Small Herds Impacting Prices

Lillas explains that  a combination of drought, soaring grain prices, and smaller cattle herds has sent the price of restaurant grade filet mignon above $30 a pound for the first time in history.    

"We're selling our filet right now for $32.99 a pound, he said. Strip Steak and Ribeyes aren't far behind, at about $15 a pound.

But he says you can still get a great steak for $8 or $9 a pound.

Great Bargain Cuts

Lillas says Flat Iron and Hanger steaks a bargain at $9.95 a pound if you marinate them. In Britain these are sometimes called Skirt Steaks.

And he calls Teres Major (Shoulder Tender) a secret bargain: It's often called a "petite filet" in restaurants, because it looks and tastes like a smaller filet mignon, at less than half the price.

"The beef industry says it's the second most tender piece of beef, next to your filet," Lillas said.

Teres Major's a bargain at $8.99 a pound in his shop, though it's hard to find in supermarkets..

Then there's Flank Steak, $9.95 a pound. Lillas admits it's tough on its own, but great if you cook thin slices with other things.

"For instance," he said, "we do a thing here called a Pinwheel Flank Steak where we tenderize it, roll it with mushrooms and cheese, asparagus."

The Bottom Line

A little ingenuity, and a good butcher, and you can still buy steak for less than 10 bucks a pound.

Or stick with chicken, where prices are not up sharply this year.

Shoppers were hit with chicken sticker shock a year ago, and most are used to high priced chicken breasts by now.

Finally, consider ground turkey instead of beef for your spaghetti sauce:  it's half the price, and when blended in a sauce, most people can't tell the diffeernce.

As always don't waste your money.


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