Beef prices skyrocket, but expected to fall soon
VANCOUVER -- On Father’s Day weekend Marcos Ferreira popped into the Richmond Costco to see what he could get to throw on the grill, and he said he was greeted with sticker shock.
“The price of the meat was really expensive. It was like way more than I used to pay,” he said.
He noticed that the price of Costco’s top cap sirloin was more than double what he’d paid in April. It had increased from $12.99 per kilogram to $27.99 per kilogram in just a couple of months.
“I was really shocked that increased that much in so short a period,” Ferreira said.
You may have noticed the jump in prices where you shop too. Although Costco’s price on top sirloin doubled, it was still the cheapest we found when we price checked at other stores, including IGA and Safeway.
Prices did increase - slowly at first, but then they took off.
“We held our retail prices as long as possible in hopes the spike in beef cost would subside quicker than it did," said Mark McCurdy, the vice-president of retail operations and brand strategy for Georgia Main Food Group. "Eventually we were forced to increase our retails or not carry beef in our retail lineup.”
Costco Canada's corporate office told CTV News Vancouver it's not in the business of gouging customers and as prices lower, it passes on the lowest cost to its members.
And in a statement, Safeway's owner, Sobeys, said: "As the result of COVID-19 outbreaks in Canada’s largest meat packers, we temporarily experienced a disruption in the Canadian meat supply chain which resulted in limited stock and subsequent short-term cost increases. These impacts were felt across Canada, including in British Columbia."
The spokesperson for the company added that for the most part, the Canadian meat supply has recovered.
Kevin Boon with the B.C. Cattlemen's Association said he's been watching prices rise.
“Yeah, they’re huge jumps and it causes us concern as well,” he said.
The increases are being blamed on COVID-19 and the impact the virus had on two Alberta processing plants.
Cargill Inc.’s High River plant temporarily shuttered operations in April after a worker died from the coronavirus and hundreds of other employees tested positive. A second plant – JBS in Brooks- recorded dozens of cases as well, and reduced operations.
Those two facilities alone make up about 70 per cent of Canada’s beef processing capabilities, but consumer panic didn't help.
“Demand and, somewhat, panic-buying drove that price up,” said Boon.
CTV News reached out to Canfax, which tracks statistics and conducts research on all things beef in Canada.
“We saw price jumps across the board for all types of cuts,” explained Brenna Grant, manager at the organization. “We saw a tripling of wholesale prices.”
She said typically there’s a lag before things start affecting the retail or food services level.
“We started to see prices increase significantly in May,” Grant said.
However, processing in Alberta has ramped up again and prices for consumers are expected fall very soon – possibly even in the next week.
Grocers also experienced supply and cost issues with pork and poultry, but not to the same level as beef.
“I just hope the price gets down again,” said Ferreira.