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Grab your tongs ... and wallet: Cost of grilling on the rise

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Grilling season is finally here. But be prepared, Minnesotans – it'll cost more this year.

The prices of beef and pork are on the rise due to a shrinking supply. The U.S. cattle herd is at a 63-year low, Bloomberg reports, due mainly to a lengthy drought in much of the United States. And the number of hogs is diminishing because a deadly virus is killing piglets at an alarming rate.

So how much will it cost?

The cost of beef is at a 27-year high, the Associated Press says. Lean and extra lean ground beef averaged $5.27 per pound in March, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That's up almost 8 percent from a year ago and 33 percent since 2008, the Star Tribune reports.

As for pork, prices increased 1.9 percent in March and are up 5.3 percent on the year, the USDA says.

The USDA's food price outlook says meat prices will continue to rise faster than any other food product this year. And prices aren't supposed to drop for another year or two until cattle and hog herds are replenished, Market Watch notes.

“I don’t see any relief in terms of red meat or pork prices,” Michael Boland, director of the University of Minnesota’s Food Industry Center, told the Star Tribune. “I think it will play out this way throughout the year.”

The rise in prices has some people changing their summer grilling menu for less expensive proteins, Reuters reports.

Here's a look at some ways to save this grilling season:

– Choose chicken, turkey or fish to beat the rising cost of meat. “It does seem like consumers are making the choice to get the ground turkey instead of ground beef, or the filet of salmon instead of the filet of beef,” Richard Volpe, a research economist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, told NBC.

– Try different cuts of meat. Daniel Vaughn, the barbecue editor for Texas Monthly, told NPR there are cheaper cuts of beef that still taste good, they just take a little more effort. Vaughn recommends beef chunk short rips, beef back rips and shoulder clod, but be sure to cook them on a low temperature for a longer amount of time. NPR notes the cuts may need to spend up to eight hours on the grill.

– Erin Chase, a consumer shopping expert for Savings.com, which makes the grocery savings app Favado, told Market Watch that customers should ask the meat counter clerk when certain items will likely go on sale and look for coupons. “Typically meat goes on sale for a week at a time,” she said. When it does, stock up and freeze the extra meat.

– Warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam's Club often have deals on meat, Market Watch notes.

– Chase told Market Watch that keeping a list of "never-pay-more-than prices" will help you save. So, if you find hamburgers on sale, put the price on your list and wait to buy burgers until they are near that sale price.

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