Alberta barbecue lovers face high beef prices for most of summer, analyst says

While Alberta beef lovers continue to pay higher prices this summer, steak and burgers could start costing less before the season is through.

1 kilogram of sirloin steak cost almost 50 per cent more between May, 2013 and May this year

Beef prices will remain steady through the barbecue season, say analysts. (Jim Cole/Canadian Press)

Alberta steak and hamburger lovers will have to endure high beef prices for most of the summer, analysts say.

But one expert is predicting prices may start to ease up before the end of this year's barbecue season.

In an interview Monday, livestock and market analyst Kevin Grier said he expects to see the regular price of beef begin coming down in the late summer or early fall. Even now, there are deals to be found, Grier said.

"(Consumers are) starting to see a little bit more attractive prices on the front page of the flyers," he said. "The first signs we always see are on our flyers."

Dramatic price hikes in 2014 and 2015

Beef prices climbed dramatically in 2014 and again in 2015, largely due to dry conditions which forced cattle farmers to downsize their herds. Farmers have since started to replenish those stocks, translating into prices that are more stable.

Statistics Canada figures show that while retail prices for cuts ranging from round steak to blade roast were all higher in May than for the same month of 2015, the increases were not as steep as in the previous two years.

One kilogram of sirloin steak that cost an average $16.81 in May 2013 soared to $24.22 in May 2015 — an increase of 45 per cent. That same kilogram of sirloin sold for for even more — $25.08 — this May, bringing the overall price hike closer to 50 per cent.

The average price for one kilogram of regular ground beef climbed from $9.50 in May 2013 to $12.64 in May 2015, an increase of 33 per cent. This May, the same kilogram of regular ground beef averaged $12.71.

Prices stable for several months

Sylvain Charlebois, a professor of food policy at Dalhousie University, said he believes consumers should be prepared for beef prices to remain stable for the next several months.

"You don't need to stock meat in your freezer anytime soon cause we don't expect beef prices to increase over the next few months," Charlebois said. "They should remain about the same."

But Charlebois said willingness by customers to pay top dollar for their beef means regular prices won't change anytime soon.

"You're transacting with a highly loyal consumer base ,so they will want to pay the price that food retailers are asking," he said.