Why the increase in meat prices?
U.S. consumers have not seen such a rapid increase in the price of food purchased to consume at home since February 1974. According to the Consumer Price Index report released on May 12, 2020, in one month, the food at home category raised 2.6% in April. Meats, poultry, fish, and eggs increased the most, rising 4.3%. Conversations with Cody and Missi Koebke, local farmers and owners of Ody’s Country Meats and Catering, Spring Valley, and Michael and Vanessa Aggen, owners of Oak Meadow Meats, Harmony, provided insight into the current situation. They also shared advice on ways consumers can support area farmers and locally-owned grocery stores while ensuring that they have access to competitively priced meat.
Consumers are wondering why the price of beef, pork, and chicken is rising. Koebke explained that the recent increase in prices is “controlled by the big box beef and pork companies such as Swift, IBP, and Tyson. They are raising prices claiming there is a shortage of meat. Us local butchers and grocery stores are not at all price gouging. In fact, most of us are not even adding our normal mark up for our retail sales. Instead, we are holding our prices down.”
I asked Koebke what services your customers are contacting you to do and what are the wait times for processing if someone wants to buy, say a half beef or pig, or bring in an animal to process?
Koebke answered, “We are doing our best to fill orders for people looking for a whole or half hog as well as a quarter, half, or whole beef; we are booked out to 2021 for any animals ,meaning the wait time is excessively long.” We have seen a huge increase in processing. This is a good problem for us to have yet at the same time a concerning problem for us as we aren’t able to fulfill customers needs fast enough.”
What do you want consumers to know?
Koebke stated, “The worst part about the high prices in the store is that the farmer is taking the hardest hit! They are not only being paid very low prices for their animals, but they are also losing money selling any other commodities such as milk, corn, soybeans, wheat, or anything. If there is any way, we can come together and help support our farmers. I hope we can do so!
“Whether we keep buying beef and pork directly from the farmer for a better price than the big box companies do, and contact our government leaders and representatives and ask them to step up to the plate and start helping the people that need help the most! So far, our communities have pulled together in an amazing effort to help each other out, and I hope to see it continue for a long time to come! It feels like we are getting back to the way America used to be, LESS CORPORATE!”
Grateful for our customers
Michael Aggen openly shared his opinion on the subject of meat prices. “The rise in meat prices consumers see at the counter is a direct result of large meatpackers raising their prices. The end retailers like grocery stores and us are tightening their margins to keep costs as low as possible for customers. We are so grateful for our customers and understand the hardship that a rise in prices can bring. Proteins like beef, pork, and chicken are a tremendous way to get power-packed nutrition, and we want to make sure everyone has access.”
What changes do you see now?
Aggen said, “Our custom processing business has exploded since the onset of the pandemic. Our custom processing appointments are booked well into 2021. While it is great to be busy, it presents a challenge for those producers with livestock that still need to be processed. As any locker will tell you, turning a customer away because there isn’t the time or space is a terrible feeling. At this time, we have been working hard to connect consumers with local farmers who have pork or beef to sell.”
We’re all in this together
The theme heard throughout the pandemic and echoed by both Koebke and Aggen is, “We’re all in this together.”