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The Big Chill

Barbecues are sitting idle across the U.S. as unseasonably cold, damp weather keeps people cooking indoors.

“We are not going to invest in good steaks just to cook them on top of the stove,” Mary Jane Kasper of suburban Chicago said. That attitude has been typical this spring as cookouts have been rained out from Chicago to New York and throughout much of the Southeast.

Idle barbecues are bad news for meat processors, which count on seasonal grilling to boost sales. Beef plants in April, on average, lost $18.50 on each head of cattle they processed into beef, compared to $40-per-head profit a year ago. Pork plants, on average, had a profit of 64 cents per hog versus a year-earlier profit of $5.50.

The volume of beef sold in April was the lowest since 2007, according to the USDA. Wholesale beef sales that month totalled 1.54 billion lbs., down nearly four per cent from a year earlier and wholesale beef prices dropped 3.5 per cent to $1.82 per lb., versus a four per cent increase a year earlier.

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