Record-High Prices Won't Stop Us Consumers From Asking: 'Where's The Beef?'

LOS ANGELES , June 12, 2013 () – When I think of retail beef prices, I think of gasoline prices. No matter how much they’re going up, people are still going to buy. Think about it: Gas prices have hovered around $4 a gallon and have gone up as much as $5 a gallon or more in recent years. Yet do you know anyone who truly has changed his or her driving habits as a result?

For most of you, the answer is no.


Because people are used to driving their cars! It’s ingrained in their daily lives. They’re not mentally prepared to make a major life change such as carpooling or riding a bike or public transportation. They’re used to their cars and cars need gas.

With beef prices, it’s the same thing. Forget that U.S. retail prices of ground beef recently hit a historic high of more than $3.50 a pound or that steak saw a record price of more than $4.80 a pound. People, especially during the summer, want to eat meat! Summer barbecues simply aren’t the same without hamburgers, hot dogs and steak!

Consumers en masse aren’t going to go to their local supermarket and say, “Wow this ground beef is really expensive. I think I’m going to serve chicken at my upcoming pool party instead.” No! They’re going to keep buying the beef because that’s what they’re used to and, more importantly, it hasn’t reached a price that’s so astronomically high that it would automatically force a consumer to pause and rethink the purchase.

Look, if gas suddenly skyrocketed to $10 a gallon, I’d be talking to my boss about working from home. Conversely, if beef suddenly rose to $10 a pound, my guests and I will be eating cheap, packaged salad at my next social gathering. But we’re not at that point yet. Not even close.

Beef prices may be seeing record highs, but they’re nowhere near high enough to see major declines in sales.

Not yet.

Nevin Barich is the Food & Beverage Analyst for IndustryIntel. Record beef prices haven’t stopped him from buying hamburgers and hot dogs at his local supermarket. He can be reached at

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