As beef prices rise, that steak on your plate shrinks

Beef is not 'what's for dinner' as often as it used to be, as price per pound rises. So butchers and restaurants are selling smaller portions.

A recent study finds the number of nights we cook with meat has fallen for the first time in eight years. And among meats, beef is taking the biggest hit. But beef sellers aren’t just sitting back and watching their prized cuts get beat up by chicken and pork. They’re adjusting -- by shrinking the size of portions.

“People aren’t eating as many steaks anymore because of the price,” says Harvey Gussman, owner of Harvey’s Guss Meat Company in Los Angeles. He sells steaks to restaurants around town. “The restaurants are having to make their menus more reasonable, so they’re going from a 16-ounce steak to a 12-ounce steak or a 12-ounce steak to a 10-ounce steak.”

And it’s not just restaurants serving up smaller steaks. Grocery stores are selling them that way. The beef you might see at the grocery store these days  is “further trimmed and more optimal portion sizes,” says Trevor Amen with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. In other words, smaller.

All that scaling back is adding up when it comes to our collective meat-stomach.

“In 2007, the average American ate 65 pounds of beef,” says Chris Hurt, an agriculture economist at Purdue University, “and for this year, we expect that to be down to 56 pounds.”

That’s 56 pounds of beef per person this year, or 89 10-ounce steaks. Hurt expect beef prices will break records again this year -- for the fourth year in a row. Adding pressure to the little meat trend.

About the author

Adriene Hill is the senior multimedia reporter for LearningCurve.

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