PRICES FALL ON GRILLING BEEF; SALES STAMPEDE ENSUES

Downward pressure on prices for beef is having an effect on consumers' choices when it comes to grilling products.In short, beef is in this season, retailers agreed. What they did not necessarily agree on was how that is affecting their meat programs.At Martin's Super Markets in South Bend, Ind., Phil Plummer, director of meat and seafood, said that retail prices have obviously persuaded some consumers,

Downward pressure on prices for beef is having an effect on consumers' choices when it comes to grilling products.

In short, beef is in this season, retailers agreed. What they did not necessarily agree on was how that is affecting their meat programs.

At Martin's Super Markets in South Bend, Ind., Phil Plummer, director of meat and seafood, said that retail prices have obviously persuaded some consumers, who in previous years would have moved to chicken and other grilling alternatives, to reconsider beef.

"Beef really is back -- we're selling a lot, burgers are doing very well. The prices are right, ground beef has really been a value, and it will continue to be a value all the way through the summer and into the fall," Plummer said.

The same trend is apparently playing out at Cub Foods, according to Tom Grisbaum, meat manager, based in Colorado Springs, Colo.

"Red meat is really starting to come back, heavy," he said. "My fresh meat sales have been up a great percentage. I just feel that it's starting to make a turnaround."

But Bob Simmons, meat department manager for the group's wholesaler, Associated Food Stores in Boise, Idaho, told SN that rock-bottom beef prices have given its retailers mixed results overall.

"With beef prices being cheap like they are, with 79-cent lean ground beef, it's getting almost as bad as turkeys at Thanksgiving. How much can you give it away for?"