CHICAGO – Meat sales were less than sizzling this Memorial Day weekend as rainy weather and higher beef prices appeared to have restrained consumer demand for cookout items, according to preliminary reports from analysts and meat shops.
In the New York and New England area, a few meat shops reported sales were down slightly, while some Midwest shops reported sales on par to up from a year ago.
"The beef sales were skewed more toward the ground product and away from the steaks," said Ann Barnhardt, analyst with livestock consulting firm HedgersEdge.com (search). "I think the problem was the forecasts for bad weather, so people had already made plans to not grill out."
Chicken sales were fairly strong while pork was slower, said Barnhardt.
Memorial Day is seen as the first cookout weekend of the summer season, and one in which meat companies hope for robust sales. Other key dates are Father's Day on June 19 and U.S. Independence Day on July 4.
Scattered showers occurred Sunday afternoon and Monday in New England, while in the Southeast there were showers on Sunday. Widespread showers occurred from Texas to Mississippi on Saturday and Sunday, said Meteorlogix (search) forecaster Joel Burgio.
"We were way off here. Probably the weather was a factor, the economy was another one. Part of the weekend it rained," a spokesman for the Brooklyn, New York, meat store Meat Place Plus said of weekend sales.
Burgio reported scattered showers during the weekend from New York City down to Washington, D.C.
"Overall, the weekend was fair. It wasn't anything spectacular as far as sales," said a Midwest meat distributor, who asked not to be identified. "Everything was moving slow. Saturday was better of the three days."
Wholesale beef prices are up from a year ago and meat shops said that resulted in higher prices for customers.
"You are talking almost 20 cents a lb more," said Paul Brester, of wholesale beef prices.
Brester owns Kelly's Meats in the Chicago suburb of Park Ridge, Ill. He estimated overall meat sales were up about 10 percent this holiday weekend vs. a year ago.
Beef was the leading seller at Rancher's Gourmet in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park (search), Kansas, but sales overall were about the same as previous Memorial Day weekends.
"Comparatively, I would say it would be as usual even though beef prices have gone up," said Cynthia Bloemer, Rancher'sGourmet general manager.