I spotted a photo being shared on Facebook this morning of a package of beef that appears to be from a grocery chain in Flint, Michigan. The label on the beef reads $130.88 for 2.38 pounds of bottom round roast. That's $54.99/pound. I reached out to two of my fellow broadcasters, both of whom live in Michigan, to see if they had seen meat prices like this.

 

Tony Labrie, from The Banana in Flint, Michigan said,

I’ve been buying meat like normal. Haven’t seen prices that high or even close!!!

Steve from The Free Beer & Hot Wings Morning Show lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan and when I asked him about the price of meat he said,

Absolutely not. I’ve had no issues finding meat and finding it affordably.

Now that I had heard from someone who actually lives and buys groceries in Michigan, my next thought was that the image had been photoshopped but then I realized that it was more likely that a frontline, essential worker - someone who has been front and center with the public since this whole pandemic began, someone who is likely just doing their best just like the rest of us - probably hit an extra "9" as they were keying the information into the label maker. Who hasn't made an extra keystroke? But then I wondered if meat has gone up as much as it feels like it has when I go grocery shopping.

Admittedly, I do most of our shopping for food at Walmart because, well, it's convenient and in my personal experience, it's typically more affordable - not necessarily better but more affordable. Lately, though it seems that a lot of my normal purchases have increased in price so I thought I'd do some more digging. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, things have changed in the Midwest. Some food items have increased in price, like chicken, while others have actually gone down, like milk and cookies. Here are some stats you might find interesting:

  • White bread has increased by $0.10 a pound between April 2019 & April 2020, but only $0.01 between March 2020 & April 2020
  • Wheat bread has had little change from 2019 to 2020 but did actually decrease in price this year from March to April $0.05,
  • Chocolate chip cookies also dropped by $0.05 per pound between March & April 2020
  • Potato chips took perhaps the steeped hike - up $0.61 per 16 ounces from March to April
  • A gallon of whole milk has increased since April of 2019 by $0.41 but it did drop a about a dime between March & April 2020
  • Eggs have seen slightly higher increase between March & April with a $0.30 increase per dozen of Grade A large

But what about meat? Beef, chicken & pork? Let's take a look:

  • Ground Beef has jumped $0.27/pound between March & April
  • Beef roasts went up $0.72/pound March to April
  • Boneless USDA Choice sirloin steak dropped by $0.46/pound - are more people buying ground beef instead of steak, driving down the demand and dropping the price?
  • Boneless chicken breasts increased $0.40 per pound which would explain why the 10# of frozen chicken that I normally buy jumped to nearly $20 a bag.
  • Bacon has gone up by about $0.06 a pound between March & April, but it's still almost the same price we were paying in 2019.
  • Expect to pay about $0.20 more per pound than you did in March
  • Whole, boneless hams are down about $0.20/pound since March
Kat Mykals, TSM

If you've purchased groceries or goods in the last couple of months amid the Covid-19 pandemic, you've likely noticed a few things, particularly here in the Tristate. First, there was the initial clearing of the shelves when the pandemic began - basics like toilet paper, paper towel and hand sanitizer pretty much flew off the shelves. Then we started noticing groceries with long-term shelf life start to disappear - rice, pasta, canned goods, etc. Now that the supply chain is starting to move again, most of those things are starting to make their way back onto store shelves but some things are still sparse, like beef and chicken products. There is rumor that beef & chicken prices, among other things, will be increasing as we see the demand for these staples continue on but with the risk of lower production of the products due to the Covid-19 pandemic, will we see the prices continue to rise? And when is it the basic economics of supply and demand and when is it price gouging? I don't have the answers to these questions but I'm right there in the boat with you. It's a strange time we're living in. With that being said, stay strong. Stay safe and be well.

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