Prices for food used during grilling season reach record high

Beef hit by drought conditions, pork affected by disease
Prices for food used during grilling season reach record high

The brat is something synonymous with Wisconsin, and the summer favorite has also become an economic indicator. The summer grilling season arrives with Memorial Day weekend and consumers will see a significant increase in what they pay for a brat.

That brat is indicative of an overall increase in pork and beef prices.

“People are going to notice higher prices at the store, and we’ve kind of seen this coming for a long time. This is not a short-term phenomenon,” said Casey Langan, executive director of public relations for the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation.

Beef and pork prices are now at historic highs. Both are being driven by increased demand from foreign markets. Beef prices are also high because of several years of drought conditions that diminished cattle herds to their lowest point since the 1950s. Pigs have been hit with a disease that has killed 10 percent of the population.

“There’s pressure on both; drought on beef and disease on pork has caused a tighter supply and a tight supply always sends prices up,” Langan said.

John Lehman, the owner of Jim’s Meat Market, doesn’t need to be told beef and pork prices are at an all-time high — he sees it in his bottom line.

“It was more than I expected because I’ve done this now for 25 years and seen prices for 25 years and that was the most I’ve seen, so it was crazy, crazy, crazy,” Lehman said.

Jim’s Meat Market hand-makes small batches of special brats and has sold as many as 4,000 in a day. In the last year the rising prices have driven the cost to make a brat up 50 percent.

The Memorial Day weekend is one of the top selling weekends for brats. Keeping with tradition Lehman plans to sell brats this week for the same price he did last year, 10 brats for $10. He said he won’t see the same profit margin, but is hoping selling in volume will help. He plans to have 16 varieties of brats available.

Market experts said consumers may need to get used to the current prices of beef and pork, as there is no easy or quick fix.

“They are kind of slow-moving disasters. We’ve seen this issue with beef coming for a couple of years and there’s really no end in sight,” Langan said. “Right now what you see is kind of what you get in the grocery store.”