Tips for consumers on coping with higher beef prices

Iowa State University Extension

The cost of a home-prepared quarter-pound cheeseburger is now 10.8% higher than just two years ago, and inflation is a major driver of that increase. As Iowa State University Extension beef specialist Beth Doran explains, the higher price is the result of higher input costs up and down the beef supply chain.

“Our burgers cost more because the feeder animal and the market animal, feed, labor, fuel, electricity and interest all cost more,” she said. “Also, more cows being harvested for beef as a result of ongoing drought likely means fewer calves in 2023, and a smaller beef supply overall.”

Less of a desired product generally leads to higher prices of that product, and Doran said people should not be surprised to see the price of beef at retail and food service levels continue to increase.

How are consumers coping with higher beef prices? Fifty percent of the consumers in a Food Industry Association survey look for sale specials and 31% use coupons. Only 17% do online shopping for meat. The majority prefer in-store grocery shopping so they can select the piece of meat they want.

During the Clay County Fair last month, Doran spoke at a local extension program, Bite by the Barn, on factors influencing the price of beef and how consumers are coping. She shared data from a Kansas State University survey of 2,000 food consumers that provides a continuing look at behavior changes over time.

Locally at Bite by the Barn, Doran conducted a small (12 beef consumers) survey using five questions from the Kansas State survey, and found some similarities and some real differences.

The results

  • No Change to Shopping Habits KSU Survey = 31.3%; Bite by the Barn Survey = 33.3%.
  • Buy Same Type (Brand, Cut, Package Size), but Fewer KSU = 27.3%; Bite by the Barn = 33.3%.
  • Buy Different Brands KSU = 16.1%; Bite by the Barn = 0.0%.
  • Buy Different Cuts KSU = 18.0%; Bite by the Barn = 41.7%.
  • Buy Smaller Package Sizes KSU = 24.6%; Bite by the Barn = 25.0%.

In the Bite by the Barn survey, the most common change cited was buying different cuts. Respondents had switched to ground beef because it cost less per pound. But 33% said they still bought the same type, only fewer packages. And, when asked about their favorite cut of beef, ribeye steak was the winner.

If you are changing your normal beef buying routines, remember, the Iowa Beef Industry Council offers free recipes for using beef. Check them out at https://www.iabeef.org/recipes.