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Surging Ground Beef Prices, As Wholesale Tops $6

Sticker shock is greeting shoppers at grocery stores across the country. From ground beef at $7.99 per  pound in Eureka, Kan. To $11.88 per pound in Lawrence, grocers are grappling with a changing market.

“In this past five to seven days, the market has just gone crazy,” says Mark Thomas, one of the owners of C&R Supermarkets, with 11 locations in rural Missouri. “Most suppliers have put grocery stores on allocations to the point where we can only get two cases of grind of any type of grind per delivery. In our average store, that’ll get us to about noon of each day.”

Thomas says his whole beef prices topped $6 per pound, and in some cases, he can’t even source enough of it. At one point, he resorted to grinding up various cuts of brisket just to make hamburger. The higher prices are coming at a time when he’s paying his employees more, as they get hazard pay for working during the pandemic.

Thomas says the wholesale prices are changing on a daily basis and trending higher. AgWeb created this interactive map to track just how high ground beef prices look across the country.

Despite the price surge at grocers, Glynn Tonsor of Kansas State University says all the way from the producers to the grocer, higher prices are due to higher costs and less supply coming from packing plants.

“It's not evident to me that anybody is winning from this,” says Tonsor. “Livestock producers, intermediate chains, wholesalers, consumers, you name it. It's not apparent to me there's a winner. And quite honestly, you can blame the pandemic for that rather than trying to find a different scapegoat.”

While beef seems to be a price pain point today, economist Steve Meyer says higher retail pork prices could also be on the horizon.

“I think we're going to see some upward pressure on pork prices within the next week or two because bellies were $2.15 per pound yesterday,” says Meyer with Kerns and Associates. “That means that the cost of bacon will go up, but they've never dropped the price of bacon, even when bellies went beyond the 40 cents the other day. So, that is a really good example of how the retailer is shock absorber.”

Whether it be through limits on the amount of protein you can buy or higher prices per pound, the effects of COIVD-19 continue to send shockwaves through the market.

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