A new analysis of Department of Agriculture data shows the average price for beef in grocery store shopping carts hit an all-time high in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic reshaped consumer behavior and eating trends.

According to an analysis by Urner Barry, the average of USDA’s all-fresh beef retail values – which measure prices of all beef quality grades in grocery stores – was $6.38 in 2020. Each month was year-over-year higher than 2019 figures, but June 2020 set an all-time monthly high of $7.38 per pound.

According to the analysis, prices also “averaged 9.71% higher than 2019, which was the second largest annual gain in history.” The only larger gain was between 2013 and 2014, when a drought caused a 13.41% spike.

“The pandemic shifted beef buying to retail stores. The captive audience and supply/demand imbalances helped push prices higher,” Urner Berry’s Gary Morrison noted.

Disparities between retail and live cattle prices drew the ire of many producers last year. The Department of Agriculture investigated the matter, but its report did not point to any specific violations of the Packers and Stockyards Act. The report also offered legislative suggestions to Congress to address market concerns and offered possible regulatory action that could be taken.

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