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Grocery store sticker shock: Sizzling meat prices in San Diego stores

From cattlemen to butchers to grocery stores, the cost of beef is up 20%.

SAN DIEGO — If you're planning on firing up the grill for this year's Super Bowl, you need to start saving. Meat prices are up 20% right now and as CBS 8 found out, there are a lot of reasons; from the supply chain to the big four meatpacking plants and all the costs that go into raising cattle and packing the meat.

“Red meat - it has gone up a lot,” said Valerie Jetter, shopper. “They have gone up significantly, it's been a shock.”

The mother usually buys organic but not with the latest prices of beef as we saw at Vons. There was a 2.55lb of USDA Choice rib eye that was $43 and Prime was $45.

“I go to different stores because different stores have different deals,” said Jetter.

The high prices are not just being felt at grocery stores but butcher shops too.

“I have customers who walk in the door and say '$80 for a pound of prime filet that's crazy' and I say, 'I’m sorry that is what I have to pay,'” said Pam Schwartz, Ranch 45.

The Solana Beach butcher shop and restaurant sells high-end cuts of meat from family-owned Brandt Beef in Brawley.

“This is a flat iron steak that I used to sell for $12 and now I sell for $24,” said Schwartz.

At Ranch 45 they say nothing goes to waste. They use trim in the beef stew, and are introducing cuts of meat you wouldn’t typically find in grocery stores. They are using cuts of meat in different ways such as finger meat and chuck roll and smoking it to create a pulled beef. They don’t even toss the fat.  

“We are rendering down our fat and making soap and candles,” said Schwartz.

So why is the price of beef up 20%?

“I've never seen the price of beef this high,” said Jim Alford.

Jim is CBS 8 reporter Abbie Alford's father but also a cattleman in Red Bluff, California, a retired commodity broker and the man who taught Abbie how to make a steak.

“These four meatpackers are charging exorbitant prices to the consumer which doesn't filter back down to the cattleman,” said Jim.

The big four meatpackers have been criticized by cattlemen all the way up to the White House. At the beginning of the pandemic plants shut down, then they reopened and there was a worker shortage but the USDA reports cattle production is way up.

“I saw that rib eye was $16.99 a pound but the cattleman only gets $1.50,” said Jim.

Now President Biden has pledged to lower prices. The White House plans to distribute $1 billion of American Rescue Plan funding to increase U.S. meat processing capacity.

“In some midwestern states like South Dakota they are starting off smaller meatpacking plants,” said Jim.

CBS 8 shopped around at Grocery Outlet and Food 4-Less like Jetter did and found cheaper rib eyes and other cuts of meat for $8 to $11 but it depends on the quality of meat that you are willing to buy.

“If you want good quality, you just have to wait it out and hope prices go down,” said Jetter.

Experts predict meat prices will go down in the next three weeks but how much is unknown, so expect popular filets for Valentine's Day to be pricey.

The USA Economic Research Service provided more information for Cattle and Beef data products and reports.

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