Pandemic problems rustle up high beef prices

Kent County

BYRON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Byron Center Meats was packed Friday afternoon with customers looking forward to sunny skies and a hot grill this Memorial Day weekend.

“No shortages. We are blessed to have a variety of products,” said Laura Sytsma, who co-owns Byron Center Meats with her husband.

The bad news, however, is that some beef prices have gone up. Take a 14-ounce cut of one of the better cuts of steak in the counter. It sells for $15 to $16 — but it was $13 before the pandemic.

The good news is there are plenty of alternatives to keep meals affordable.

The increase in prices is likely due to U.S. slaughterhouses still catching up with demand after pandemic shutdowns and increased demands in a global market.

“It ties in to imports and exports and production and the lack of processing workers,” Sytsma said.

Many of the price increases are compared against pre-pandemic costs. The costs of a lot of the items at Byron Center Meats are actually down from this time last year.

And for items that have increased in cost, there are other options.

“If they’re used to a beef brisket on the smoker, maybe this weekend it’s a pork shoulder. There’s different price points where you can still do the grill, still have the smoker experience,” Sytsma said.

Locally sourced beef is another option.

“Schaendorf Cattle Company in Allegan,” Sytsma said as she held up a package of ground beef. “And we are able to see that for $4.50 a pound. All-natural local product; that’s incredible. Typically this could be $5.99, $6.50.”

The hope is as the pandemic subsides, production will increase and prices will stabilize.

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