By Devra First
By Devra First
Nov. 13, 2008 – Call it the meat index. If you want to know whether times are tough,
ask your butcher.
Call it the meat index. If you want to know whether times are tough,
ask your butcher. "We are selling so much more hamburg," says Charles
Silva, owner of New England Meat Market. "We used to sell 250 to 300
pounds a day. Now it's over 500." At his Peabody business, the ground
beef costs $2.59 to $2.69 per pound, less when it's on sale. An
$8.99-per-pound steak can't compete.
"Forget your choice
steaks, your rack of lamb," Silva says. "I sold a couple today for
birthdays, and that's all you're going to get."
Meat is a
relatively expensive way to feed the family, and people looking to cut
costs in a bad economy are buying less of it. The amount of beef sold
nationwide decreased 2.4 percent for the month of September, according
to numbers from the Beef Checkoff, a marketing and research program.
Lamb and veal sales were down 17.1 and 16.9 percent respectively. (Bad
news for chickens, but good news for poultry farmers, is that chicken
sales were up 5.1 percent.)
"I'd say probably from the beginning
of September there's been a marked uptick in the amount of
lesser-priced steak sold," says John Dewar of T.F. Kinnealey & Co.
Meats. "Come the weekends, people are still buying the sirloin, the
rib, but it's more of a treat. We've had customers say to us, you don't
see us during the week so much because we go to the supermarket and buy
things on sale. They're eating more frugally during the week and
splurging on weekends."
It's not just retail. Wholesale is down,
too. "We're seeing a downward trend in the amount of product
restaurants are buying," Dewar says. "They're serving less customers.
One of the indicators of the amount of revenue the restaurants generate
is sales tax. In September it was off 6 percent. That's a pretty
healthy amount." Indeed, a Food Marketing Institute report released
earlier this year found that 71 percent of Americans are cooking at
home more and eating out less.