UK meat specialist weighs in on consumer habits amid inflation

Posted at 6:00 PM, Oct 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-19 18:17:50-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The latest numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show the Consumer Price Index rose again in September.

On the shelf, down the aisle, and behind the counter, every corner of the grocery store continues feeling inflation.

“Is it gonna go down anytime soon? It doesn’t look like it. All indicators look like it’s gonna stay up,” said UK extension meat specialist Dr. Gregg Rentfrow.

While many consumers have opted to forego non-essential foods, meat isn’t something Americans are willing to give up, according to Rentfrow.

“It’s not a meal if there’s no meat in the middle of the plate,” said Rentfrow. “I don’t think folks are gonna change that. I think like anything else, we’ve adjusted to higher gas, we’ll adjust to this as well.”

Rentfrow got his first taste of the industry when he worked in a butcher shop in high school. Now an extension meat specialist teaching at the University of Kentucky, he’s seen it all – from cattle to the shopping cart.

“That used to be our trick, instead of putting two steaks in a package we’d put one, or we’d cut them slightly thinner simply because a thinner steak is less weight. Less weight is less total price. So, there are little ways that the grocery industry, retail, even meat processors try to alleviate the high price shock, but in reality, the price is still up,” explained Rentfrow.

As with other areas of inflation, meat consumers are pivoting.

“We’re seeing people shy away from the more expensive cuts, so maybe we don’t have ribeye for dinner tonight, maybe it’s hamburger, that kinda stuff. We’re seeing people adjust to those cheaper cuts as the prices go up.”

They’re also buying in bulk.

“The club stores of the world, even going to your local processor, people are buying in bulk because it’s cheaper in the long run,” said Rentfrow.

Until gas and diesel prices level, alleviating stress on the supply chain, Rentfrow expects these consumer contingencies will stay put.