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Ouch! Pricier Beef This Holiday Weekend as Americans Fire Up the Grill

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The Memorial Day weekend -- what has become the official start of summer and the outdoor grilling season-- has become the single largest beef-eating period of the year.

But if you're salivating at the prospect of sinking your teeth into a big, juicy burger, get ready to swallow hard. That hamburger is going to cost you. The rising price of beef may have you putting smaller sliders on the grill instead.

Where's the Beef?

Ground beef prices are near record highs because of the continuing decline in feeder cattle supplies.

According to the U.S. Agriculture Department, the current levels of cow slaughter reflect the ongoing drought in the Plains, the Southwest and western United States.  In addition, according to the government, because of drought condition ranchers aren't raising as many cattle, which will put a whammy on cow inventories.  

That's why in the past five years, the retail price for fresh beef has surged from $3.89 per pound, on average, in 2009 to $5.49 per pound as for April, according to USDA latest data, as of May 15.

Are Carnivores Turning To Chicken?

Mike Miller, senior vice president of global marketing and research for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, believes beef will remain the top choice for the holiday's cookouts this weekend and into the summer.

He even put out a statement to that effect, adding, "Demand for beef is strong and continues to grow, even in a time of higher prices.  In fact, more than 80% of Americans say that over the next six months they anticipate eating the same amount -- if not more -- beef.  

"Like all proteins, the price of beef has gone up, but if you compare them to the same time a year ago, the average price of beef has increased $0.25 per pound, which amounts to just about six cents more per serving." 

Will Supply Meet Demand?

Although consumers will pay more for meat this summer, the good news is there's still plenty to go around.

John Anderson, deputy chief economist for the American Farm Bureau, states, "Consumers will have no problem finding their favorite meats for summer barbeques and cook-outs."

If so, that's also good news for some U.S. meat processors, including Cargill, Hormel Foods (HRL), and ConAgra (CAG).

So after standing over a hot grill this Memorial Day weekend, remember to savor every last bite of that expensive burger a little bit more.

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

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