After years of steady gains, it looks like the retail price of beef may have finally peaked, posting its first decline in years and signaling a possible return to what one analyst calls "more reasonable" prices.
Since July 2012, the price of a pound of chuck has risen by about 27 per cent according to Statscan data, rising from $4.17 four years ago, to $5.71 last summer.
Over the last year, a pound of ground beef has fallen 2.5 per cent to $5.56 a pound in July 2016, marking the first price decline in years.
"That's the first time it's been down in a long, long time," said Kevin Grier, a Guelph-based independent consultant who analyzes the price of livestock, meat and groceries, said in a telephone interview, noting it was only a matter of time.
Beef hit tipping point in 2014
Grier said herds in North America had been in decline for about a decade because of a combination of factors, including drought in the U.S. midwest.
"Starting in 2014 cattle prices soared like a rocket ship and they kept on going higher and higher into mid-2015 and again, it was all because of declines in the past 10 years," he said.
"Right now we have more calves and frankly we have more calves than the industry wants and beef prices at retail are responding accordingly."
Grier said it means barbeque fans might soon see a return of t-bones and tenderloins to the front covers of grocery store fliers, they've been an endangered species over the last several years.
'Beef is an important item'
"Beef is an important item," he said. "You would typically have beef on the front page of the fliers from the Maritimes to BC on about two-thirds of the fliers."
"In 2014-2015 the price of beef got so high, the retailers said 'we just can't do this. We just can't make this attractive to consumers,'" he said.
"Now with supplies being more plentiful and prices being more reasonable you're starting to see beef once again on the front page of the fliers," he said.
"The fliers are the first signal that things are changing and then the next thing is the regular retail price, which is reflective more in Statscan."