Retailers have featured T-bone steaks heavily this year. But ribeye steaks remain Americans’ firm favorite even though they are more expensive than last year. Strip steaks remain consumers’ second favorite beef cut in terms of dollar sales, while T-bones are their third favorite and stew meat their fourth.

More than 140 beef cuts are sold at retail and the top 10 account for 31 percent of dollar sales for all cuts, according to a beef checkoff sales data and retail insights report. The report covers the retail sale of beef cuts from January through July this year. Sales in 2018 of top-selling beef cuts are strong, it says. Prices have remained robust as supplies continue to increase, spurred by growing consumer demand. Regional differences play a role in cut preference, but the list of top-selling cuts remains as consistent as the great taste of beef, it says.

Another report reveals that January-August beef sales this year were up $3.3 billion and 317.8 billion pounds compared to the first eight months of 2012. Sales had a 12.7 percent higher average retail price of $4.95 per pound. Strong consumer demand for beef that has driven a robust supply expansion has been key, says Alison Krebs of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. She examined how the beef cuts in today’s grocery baskets have changed.

Ribeye steaks generic

Ribeye steaks.

Ground beef sales have definitely been on trend, whereas consumers have been choosing rounds, chucks and other end cuts less often. Middle meat sales have been strong, buoyed by a robust economy and consumers’ continuing desire for the higher quality beef they have found on retail shelves.

The report on beef cuts confirms this. Ribeye sales in the seven months totaled 156.5 million pounds and were valued at $1.432 billion, says the report. Their average retail price was $9.16 per pound. The value was up 4 percent from a year ago while the volume was up 1 percent. The average price was up 3 percent.

Strip steak sales in the seven months totaled 117 million pounds and were valued at $948 million. Their average retail price was $8.11 per pound. The value was up 2 percent from a year ago while the volume was up 1 percent. The average price was up 2 percent.

T-bone sales in the seven months totaled 56.1 million pounds and were valued at $391 million. Their average retail price was $6.96 per pound. The value was up 12 percent from a year ago while the volume was up 18 percent. The average price was down 5 percent. These numbers reflect the aggressive featuring by retailers.

Stew meat sales in the seven months totaled 70.6 million pounds and were valued at $371 million. The average retail price was $5.25 per pound. The value was up 7 percent from a year ago while the volume was up 1 percent. The average price was up 6 percent. Rounding out the top five cuts were chuck center roasts. Their sales in the seven months totaled 87.1 million pounds and were valued at $365.8 million. Their average retail price was $4.20 per pound. The value was down 2 percent from a year ago while the volume was down 5 percent. The average price was up 3 percent.

The value and volume decline suggests some consumers transferred their beef dollars to more expensive cuts. But blade chuck roast sales saw a 15 percent increase year on year in value, a 10 percent increase in volume and a 4 percent increase in price.

With ribeyes in mind, you might consider treating yourself to a highly-marbled Wagyu ribeye steak. If you check prices at the nation’s top steakhouses, you will find A-5 Waygu ribeyes ranging in price from $160-350. The best deal though is at Costco. It is offering for the holidays an A-5 Wagyu ribeye roast at $83 per pound. But you have to fork out $1,000 because the roast weighs 12 pounds.

If you don’t want to spend that much on one purchase, your best bet might be Alexander’s in Pasadena, CA, which offers the steak for $160 (weight unknown). Perhaps the best restaurant deal is at Barclays Prime in Philadelphia, PA, which offers an 18-ounce ribeye for $195. The most expensive steaks, not surprisingly, are in Las Vegas, with one 12-ounce Wagyu steak at $350 at Old Homestead Steakhouse.

Meanwhile, more retail and foodservice meat buyers are using a cold storage program that is said to go well beyond the normal freezing and thawing of meat. They are using the program to be able to guarantee forward supplies of certain cuts of beef, pork and poultry when they might be seasonally tight. The program, trademarked as Suspended Fresh, began just over 10 years ago. The program enables buyers to have product held for weeks or even months, then delivered to them equivalent to fresh product in terms of moisture, tenderness and color stability. — Steve Kay

Steve Kay is Editor/Publisher of Cattle Buyers Weekly, an industry newsletter published at P.O. Box 2533, Petaluma, CA, 94953; 707-765-1725. Kay’s Korner appears exclusively in WLJ.

WLJ Contributing Columnist

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