Meat Prices Up, Corn To Blame?

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Meat cutter Dana Jarrad is preparing what he considers a gorgeous cut of lamb for Easter Sunday. But if you look closely at the meat he's cutting, you may notice something different about it.

"Last year we sold lamb for $3.99 a pound and this year it's up to $4.29 a pound. Our standing rib roast for Christmas was $6.99 a pound last year, this year it was $7.99 a pound," Jarrad says.

As people pick out their poultry, pork, steak and lamb, they're seeing beefier prices-- and it's not necessarily due to inflation.

"I'd say [the price has gone up] about 50 cents a pound on every type of meat we have in the past year," he adds.

Word around the chopping block is that it's due to the increasing demand for corn. With corn-based ethanol taking off, farmers are having to compete with ethanol producers to feed their livestock. And with corn selling at $4 a bushel, that competition isn't easy.

"As costs go up, we tend to either slow expansion of livestock or sometimes decrease it," says MSU Agricultural Economics professor Jim Hilker.

But Hilker says corn can't fully be to blame at this point. He says it's still reasonably priced.

"We need to remember corn has been under the cost of production for two to three years," Hilker says.

In fact, we've barely begun to see the real affects of the demand for corn on our meat. But that time is coming, and it's coming soon. Hilker says poultry will jump in price within the next 6-7 months, with pork and beef following soon after. He adds that production, especially of beef, will also go down.

And less product often translates into higher prices at the market.

"I think prices will go up some more," Jarrad speculates.

Next Easter, shoppers may need to beef up their bank accounts even more before buying at the butcher's.

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