KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Fresh meat has seen better days. But things could be worse.

Nielsen reports that fresh meat volume sales are flat because of a 5 percent rise in retail prices. Categories like beef and pork are losing volume sales as prices continue to climb, according to the global information company.

According to a recent Nielsen survey, 41 percent of consumers said they are purchasing fresh meat less often because of higher prices, and 37 percent are buying less-expensive cuts of meat to offset rising costs.

Nielsen’s news is in correlation with what Tyson Foods Inc. reported in its second-quarter earnings earlier this week — pounds are flat and prices are up in red meat categories.

“Our ground beef sales were up 11 percent, but pounds declined as pricing shot up 17 percent,” Donnie Smith, president and CEO of Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson, said in a teleconference call with the media. “Our whole fresh muscle beef sales were also up, but pounds were down almost 5 percent on strong pricing of [more than] 13 percent.”

Nielsen reported that while fresh meat still accounts for 11 percent of retail store sales, consumers are studying their purchases more closely. Compound annual dollar growth rate for fresh meat in the US has increased 3 percent over the last five years, but the growth was largely the result of rising prices, according to Nielsen.

Things could be worse, however. As Smith pointed out, lower prices at the gas pump have enabled consumers to spend more on food, including meat.