Retail meat prices remain higher than last year as consumers plan for traditional Memorial Day gatherings, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.

Retail prices for traditional summer grilling items, including beef, pork and chicken cuts, are higher than than last year.

Wholesale beef prices for many cuts are lower than this time last year, but retail prices have not declined yet in turn, said David Anderson, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension economist, Bryan-College Station. Beef and pork production continues to exceed last year’s level despite high feed costs, but demand has kept up with high supplies.

“I suspect part of the retail prices is consumer demand is still there, and there are higher logistical and labor costs being passed along,” he said. “But I would argue a lot of it is timing, and lower wholesale prices have not yet reached consumers at the retail side. In that case, some lower prices might show up over the coming weeks.”

Beef prices higher for consumers

National weekly averages for wholesale beef cuts ranging from boneless rib-eyes to shoulder roasts and brisket were much lower than the week leading into Memorial Day 2021, Anderson said.

Wholesale choice rib-eye steaks were $8.56 per pound compared to $12.63 per pound in 2021, or 32% lower, according to the wholesale report. Choice roasts were $2.62 per pound compared to $3.19 per pound last year, and choice briskets were $2.97 per pound compared to $4.40 per pound last year.

Anderson said beef supplies are as high as this time last year, though he noted grade qualities were above last year with more choice cuts available.

Retail choice rib-eye steaks are one of the exceptions with lower prices at $10.97 per pound compared to $12.37 per pound last year, Anderson said. Brisket retail prices are $4 per pound compared to $3.13 per pound; and flank steaks, which are used in fajitas, were $10.17 per pound compared to $9.77 per pound last year.

More grocery stores are featuring beef cuts compared to last year, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture retail survey. Grocery store features include products with advertised prices, and around 69% of retail stores were featuring various beef cuts. Around 19% were offering beef cuts on special, which is defined as a “no-price” promotion, including “buy one, get one free” or get one free with the purchase of other items.

“It’s interesting that average monthly retail beef prices have not come down in response to the falling wholesale prices,” Anderson said. “It could be that lower wholesale prices are allowing them to run specials leading into Memorial Day, or that we could be heading toward lower retail prices in the near future.”

Pork, chicken prices

Higher retail prices could direct some consumers to lower-cost products like ground beef or to other meats like pork or chicken, Anderson said. However, both pork and chicken are experiencing a similar pricing trend to beef with generally higher prices.

Retail pork cut prices had a wide range with some higher and lower than last year, with spareribs priced $4.82 per pound compared to $3.82 per pound last year, or 21% higher. Retail poultry prices were similarly higher with boneless/skinless breasts coming in $3.25 per pound compared to $2.69 per pound, or 17% higher per pound than last year and boneless thighs being 24% higher at $1.26 per pound compared to 98 cents per pound last year.

“We’re seeing higher costs on most everything, but overall, I think the lower wholesale beef prices give us some hope for lower prices this summer,” he said.