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Consumers battle highest ground beef prices on record

As prices on everything go up, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says the average price of ground beef hit a record high in July.

Reports in January showed cattle herds down two percent this year. Now that it’s summer, demand is up, meaning the record prices are really no surprise.

With a recent spike in gas prices, we wanted to know: How are local families making it work? Posing the question on Facebook led us to a single mom with some cost-cutting suggestions.

Can you put a price tag on a jerky fix?

“The beef has gone up about a dollar a pound since January,” said Mitch Scott, co-owner of Glenwood Smoked Products in Idaho Falls.

Scott said July’s record prices are the highest he’s seen since opening in 1983.

“It is what it is,” said Scott. “We shop and try to get best prices we can. (We) try to buy ahead to get the best prices.”

That’s how single mom Natalie Crane keeps food on her table.

“If you can’t save with the beef, you can save elsewhere,” said Crane.

With food and gas getting more and more expensive, Crane said she took up “couponing” about a year ago.

“You have no other choice,” said the Idaho Falls woman. “You just take it day by day, one day at a time.”

Hours of cutting and clipping, she said, save up to $500 a month, leaving room in the budget to catch a movie or take a day trip.

Crane’s strategy will come in handy as the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts meat and dairy products will increase 3.5 to 5 percent next year. As for battling current beef prices, she suggested buying a cow in bulk, saving on the staples like milk and cereal, and ditching brand-name everything for the generic version.

“If you really want that hamburger, get the cheaper jeans,” said Crane.

Experts say beef prices should drop as the summer comes to an end, then increase again around October or November; that’s when eastern Idaho is expected to feel the effects of the current drought in the Midwest.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports ground beef cost about $3.085 per pound in July, up from $3.007 in June. Before June, according to the BLS, the average cost had never been above $3 per pound.

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