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Meat markets dealing with higher beef costs

Small cattle herd to blame for 20-25% beef price increase

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – To deal with the rising cost of beef, Tillman's Meat Market has increased its price of filet mignon by 40 cents per pound.

For a family of four, the steaks will now cost $28, a dollar more than last week.

Beef eaters say the dollars and cents add up.

"Where is it going to stop? I don't know. It will depend on the economy and the United States," said Gary Stake, who owns Tillman's Meat Market.

He said beef prices are up 20 to 25 percent because the U.S. Department of Agriculture says the nation's cattle herd is the smallest it has been in 60 years.

Experts also believe a drought in the Southwest is playing a big part in the shortage, and high gas prices mean higher delivery costs.

"We all know that hits our pockets and it drives up the beef prices," Stake said.

He said he's been forced to increase his prices for ground sirloin and beef tenderloin by 40 to 50 cents per pound.

"We don't have other products we can pass it off on, so it's extremely hard for me to raise prices," Stake said.

Russ Smith, who owns Russ-Does' Sandwich Shop, said high beef prices are taking a big bite out of his profits.

"I have not increased the price of anything. I am just absorbing it. So now it's affecting my paycheck," Smith said.

He said the cost of his burgers have gone up about 16 cents apiece, and if it continues, he said his customers will have to pay the price.

But for now, he's holding steady.

"With people paying for gas and people have only so much they can spend on lunch, so I can pass the price on, but eventually people won't be able to eat out anymore," Smith said.

Stake worries the price hikes will drive his customers away, but he's doing his best to keep his meat affordable.

"I'm trying to give as good a value as I can and be competitive and offer good discounts," Stake said.