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Falling Beef Prices Mean Restaurant Menus Are Getting Meatier

Prices are down and red meat consumption is up

There's never been an easier time to fire up the grill — as both a consumer and a restaurant — thanks to increased cattle and decreased beef prices. As Bloomberg reports, recent USDA data shows that the number of cattle placed into feedlots in April rose 7.5 percent from a year earlier, which will lead to increased beef production in four to six months. The USDA is also predicting beef prices will drop as much as two percent this year, with annual production increasing for the first time in six years.

Red meat consumption is already up as a result of the lower prices, a trend chain restaurants are taking full advantage of with a renewed emphasis on beef.

Speaking to analysts on a May 12 earnings call, Shake Shack CEO Randy Garutti noted that the beef market is a "volatile" one, but added that he expects it to be down for the remainder of the quarter. Though the company has recently focused on promoting its new chicken sandwich, it will soon release a limited-time-only bacon-cheddar burger.

Applebee's is focusing much of its current marketing efforts on beef, investing $75 million to install wood-fired grills in all of its restaurants. Applebee's has also made the switch to USDA Choice steaks, which it says will be hand-cut in the kitchen daily and are featured prominently in the brand's latest marketing campaign.

Ground beef prices have historically increased at a faster rate than the consumer price index for overall food and beverage, largely due to drought and increased demand for beef. Last year, Chipotle began charging 4 to 6 percent more for its steak and barbacoa burritos, bowls, tacos, and salads, as a result of continually rising beef costs.

With costs now lower, many chains are offering value meals centered on beefy items. Wendy's and Burger King, for instance, both recently unveiled $4 bacon cheeseburger value meals.

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