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7:44 AM Thu, Sept. 20th

Arizona Farm Bureau: Price of meat per pound up $1 in year

Still eating beef? If you’re on a tight budget, you may have to lower your expectations a bit.

The latest quarterly survey of food prices in Arizona finds that the average cost for a pound of sirloin tip roast has reached $7.64 a pound. That’s up more than a dollar per pound from the same time a year ago.

And this isn’t a short-term trend.

Three years ago you could get the same cut of meat for less than $6 per pound. And the year before that the price was below $5.

Yet the survey by the Arizona Farm Bureau Federation, released this past week, found its shoppers could get a pound of ground chuck this quarter for $3.12 a pound, versus $4.25 for the same package in 2015.

So what gives?

Farm Bureau spokeswoman Julie Murphree said some of it is supply and demand.

“You’re always going to end up getting more ground beef from a beef cow than some of these real premium select cuts,” she said.

But who is going to pay that kind of money?

Murphree insisted this won’t leave only the well-to-do to serve those fancy cuts. But she said it may mean that some shoppers opt to purchase the more expensive cuts less often, perhaps waiting for special occasions.

“Especially for the holidays, I always make an exception on a premium cut that might be a little bit more expensive because I know I’m not necessarily going to purchase that every time I go to the grocery store,” she said.

Aside from ground chuck, there is another option.

The price of boneless chicken breasts is less now than a year ago. And Murphree said shoppers are taking notice of the price differences.

“Because of the economics of it, it does reflect why consumers have increased their consumption of poultry,” she said. But Murphree said it comes down to personal preferences.

The new report also shows an increase in the cost of whole milk. It’s up to $2.81 a gallon, versus $2.25 a year earlier.

Murphree said, though, she expects them to level off.

That’s been the history of milk, going up and down.

But the question is: level off where? The current price is virtually identical to what it was in 2012.

Overall, the ups and downs of the various items on the survey resulted in a market basket cost for the 16 items of $51.20. That is up 91 cents from a year earlier.

Murphree stressed that the prices in the survey are what shoppers found on average. She said that means careful consumers may be able to do better - even with those premium beef cuts - by looking for loss-leaders at supermarkets.