As consumer spending has ground to a halt, expensive cuts of beef have languished while affordable options like hamburger have continued to sell at a brisk pace. Hamburger prices remain the same, but the oversupply of prime cuts has driven their price down.
Adding to the oversupply is the increased quality of cattle coming to market. This is because prices on the hoof have stagnated, so ranchers tend to keep cattle longer hoping for a better price, and the older the cow, the more likely it is to qualify as choice or prime.
With top cuts selling at 2002 prices, restaurants have a unique window of opportunity to draw customers in with a great value on prime beef. Beef prices typically tend to rise in the spring as supply falls, and then again as the residential grilling season heats up.
Still, prices on prime cuts of beef should stay relatively low for about another six months as consumers continue to avoid more expensive meats.
This means restaurants can continue to take advantage of good prices and move some quality beef.