COLLEGE STATION — For the past year, meat prices have remained positive for consumers. Surprisingly, they may get even better.
“The nation’s inventory of cattle and calves continues to increase over last year’s,” said Dr. Dick Edwards, food marketing specialist with the Texas Agricultural Extension Service. “Beef production will rise only an estimated 1 percent during the year. Normally, this small increase alone would be sufficient to cause a further decline in beef prices, but poultry supplies are estimated to climb by 8 percent and pork production will be 6 percent up from last year’s record.”
This will ensure another period of oversupply, which means lower prices, he said.
The exact level of prices will depend on consumer demand. Most analysts believe prices should drop between 3 percent and 5 percent over the remainder of 1995.
In May, pork products will top most meat ads, with chops on sale between $1.39 and $1.49 per pound. Ribs will be aggressively merchandised around Memorial Day with prices dropping to around $1.19 per pound. Fresh shoulder roasts, popular for barbecuing, will cost $1 per pound. Pork steaks will be marked at 89 cents per pound.
The Memorial Day beef specials will feature brisket as the attention-getter for about 89 cents per pound. Hamburger will go for 99 cents per pound. Chuck steak will be on special throughout the month for $1.19 per pound.
Specials also will run on round and sirloin steaks for between $1.59 and $1.69 per pound. When on sale, prime cuts such as t-bone steaks will be priced for $3.25 per pound, with ribeye and strip steaks 50 cents per pound higher.
Chicken breasts with bone-in and skin will be less than $1 per pound. Breasts without bone and skin will be on sale for between $2 and $2.25 per pound. Leg-thigh cuts will range between 39 and 49 cents per pound, and thighs will be featured at 60 cents per pound. Whole birds will be on special only twice in May at around 60 cents per pound.
The news is not bright for crops affected by the March California floods, Edwards said.
The affected area normally supplies about 90 percent of broccoli, cauliflower and lettuce, the most severely damaged crops. Although the radical surge in prices caused by shortages have subsided, prices on these three crops will be higher than normal.
Consumers will not see any specials on these items or suitable substitutes such as fresh spinach and varieties of leaf lettuce. Only specials on cole slaw mix for between 59 and 79 cents per pound may be available during the month.
More promotions of apples, citrus, and bananas are likely, Edwards said. Apples will be priced between 69 and 79 cents per pound for the large sizes of the most popular varieties.
Sale prices for both grapefruit and oranges will range from 29 to 39 cents per pound the first part of May. Sales on bananas will offer either 3 or 4 pounds per dollar. Strawberry prices should be at normal levels of 49 to 59 cents per pint.
Other items featured this month will include green beans, yellow squash, sweet onions, radishes, green peas, and okra — all available for between 59 and 79 cents per pound. Sweet corn will cost $1 for 4 ears on sale.
Look for specials on the newly-harvested crops of cherries, peaches, apricots, cantaloupes, honeydew melons, and watermelons. Peaches will be the best buy at 59 to 79 cents per pound; cantaloupes will go for about $1 each.
“The relatively low red meat prices are driving the managers of seafood departments crazy,” Edwards said. “They just cannot compete on price, and the so- called ‘health advantage’ is slowly eroding as red meat producers continue their relentless campaign to show that red meat is not nearly as harmful to our health as some reports have shown. ”
Orange roughy fillet prices will vary between $5 and $6 per pound on sale. Fillets of catfish will cost around $4 per pound. Pollack fillets will be featured at $2 per pound.
Sale prices on shrimp will begin at approximately $5.50 per pound for the 61-70 count sizes. Prices will increase about $1 per pound as the sizes increase, thus 51-60 count will be $6.50 per pound. Large-sized shrimp will be around $10 per pound.
Special promotions during the month will bring a number of bargains on different items, Edwards said. Foods such as salsa, tortilla chips, refried beans, rice, tortillas and tacos will be discounted about 25 percent in connection with the celebration of Cinco de Mayo.
Prices on many bouquets, corsages, and hanging baskets will be cut up to 40 percent around Mothers Day.
In addition to the meat items mentioned earlier, the best buys for the Memorial Day celebration will be on hot dogs for around $1 for a one-pound package. National brands of soft drinks will drop down to 99 cents per six pack, and charcoal will sell for around $4 for a 20- pound sack.