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There’s Good in Bad

Written by Dennis Sun

     A Gallup Poll that had come out around the first of September said that Americans spend around $151 a week on food. That amount is smaller than when Gallup last asked the question in 1987.

Gallup first asked the question on food costs in 1943, when the average was around $15, and then again in 1987, when the money spent on food jumped to around $106. Gallup said that adjusting the historical data to 2012 dollars also reveals that Americans’ weekly spending on food began to decline in the 1970s, after rising to a high of $234 in 1966-67. Generally, the downward trend was interrupted by a spike in 1987.

Gallup also said the increases in weekly food spending over time largely reflect the impact of inflation. So, on a relative basis, after adjusting prior years’ data for inflation to 2012 dollars, Americans are spending less on food now than in the the mid- to late-1980s when the poll was last taken.

Americans lead the world on cheap food. I’ve heard that we only spend 11 to 12 percent of our earned income on food, where in other countries it is much larger.

The poll also showed that young adults' average weekly food spending is $173, and young adults ate out more often than other age groups. But, the number of all Americans who ate at home has increased to 80 percent, compared to the 10 percent who said they ate at a restaurant. I think that is a positive sign because we hear all the time how young adults don’t cook at home or don’t know how to cook. Now it is up the nation’s beef and lamb producers and the managers of their checkoffs to get the word out.

I see where those attending the World Health Summit in Berlin this week endorsed the “Meatless Monday” concept. That is an uphill battle we in the meat business all have to fight with one voice. Some may think that is an unattainable goal, but it needs to happen.

In the beef business, we’re also currently dealing with much lower cattle prices. The negative part is that we’re not going to be bringing in the amount of dollars we need. As long as we are stuck with it, we may just as well dream up some positive aspects of the lower beef prices.

Most shoppers don’t believe it, but grocery prices are going down, and beef products are leading the way. In a sense, that may be good in that it will get people back to buying steaks or roasts. Due to high prices, a lot of grocery shoppers have skipped over these products and just bought hamburger over the last few years. This past week, petite sirloin steaks were priced at $2.99 a pound and a boneless rump or chuck roast at $3.99 a pound. That is a good price for the consumer.

Those prices are an opportunity for the consumer, state beef councils and checkoff dollars to get back to the beef section of the meat counters. The competition for grocery shoppers, either online or in person, is huge today – so much so that those companies that sell groceries are seeing their bottom line drop. One can order groceries or even meals online, and they are delivered right to your doorstep and at a decent price. To most young adults, convenience is well worth the dollars. We just need to be sure there is lamb or beef in these boxes.