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Our View: Steak lovers being raked over coals

Updated: July 24, 2013 6:51AM



We have a beef with beef.

We’re choking on the cost.

That’s what we do every summer.

The price of gasoline is one American target of ritualized anguish. Beef is another.

It’s up, it’s down. Who’s gouging us? Who’s profiteering? We go through the traditional furor every summer and seem to forget the answers we contemplated in the previous year.

With unregulated prices of commodities, it’s usually consumer demand that drives the price. If we use less, we will pay less.

If you want to rile an American, mess with gas prices or the cost of a good steak.

It’s getting to the point that you can’t even afford a bad steak.

After a decade of drought, the number of beef cattle in the nation has shrunk to a six-decade low (about 90 million). Because the cost of feed grain is up, the cost of beef is, too.

The average price of steak is $4.81 per pound, while ground beef is $3.51 per pound.

Though the cost is up 20 percent over the past three years, that does not slow us down. We complain a lot, but we still ask someone to past the Worcestershire sauce.

Last year, Americans spent an average of $288.40 per person on beef, a 4.2 percent increase from $276.80 a year earlier. U.S. beef sales reached $91 billion last year, up from $86 billion in 2011.

Yet volume is in decline. Yes, pay more but get less. That riles us up, too.

For a consumer, the answer to both burdens of gas and steak is the same. Use less. You’ll control the price. It’s a natural tug of war, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it.

We eat an average of 70 pounds of beef per year. Argentinians eat 140 pounds.

The short-term answer for gas prices is to stay home, walk or ride a bike. When the nation’s drivers do that en masse, the price always declines. The answer for skyrocketing sirloin or porterhouse is to eat more soy burgers or salads.

Ugh. It’s reason enough to make you hate the 21st century.



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