Consumers across North America have made hamburger their number one choice it comes to the consumption of beef.

But how long will this love affair last?

Retail food industry specialist John Scott tells Rural Roots Canada the rising price of beef may soon have consumers turning to other meats.

“Because there is such a large portion of animal devoted to hamburger or ground beef, if you will, and because of where beef is priced these days, hamburger is getting very close to the price of steak in the supermarket,” said Scott.  “So the consumer is going to start shifting to things like chicken and turkey and that kind of thing.”

Scott says to date the price of hamburger has been suppressed by competition in Canada but that is going to change this year as Target closes and Sobey’s closes some of its locations after acquiring Safeway.

“I guess what we are going to learn in the next couple of years is the true elasticity of the beef product.  How high can prices go and maintain consumption?  I suspect there is going to be quite a ceiling and I hope that one of the ceilings that is going to be hit is in the ground beef sector because again that has traditionally been an inexpensive comfort food for the whole family.  If all of a sudden it is the same price as steak, people will not substitute steak, steak is not a comfort food.  They’ll substitute chicken which is only rising at 2 per cent as opposed to beef at 5 and 6 per cent.”

Scott says producers should keep an eye on the prices in the supermarkets.