Look behind the headlines on food price increases


There is no bigger story in the world of food than the rate of inflation reported in March by the CPI. Over the past 12 months, we have seen the food price index increase by more than 10% over the past 12 months. On a monthly basis, prices for food at home increased by 1.5%. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

BlsTable 2. Consumer Price Index for all urban consumers (CPI-U): US city average, by detailed expenditure category

this reflects the largest increase since March 1981 when, according to BLS data, the national average price for uncooked ground beef was $5.34 per pound – today they report the same food costs $17.24 – an increase of 222.82%. When we look at data from March 2022, the largest category increase is actually for “fats and oils” at 14.9%, followed by “meat, poultry, fish and eggs” at 13.7% since March 2022. ‘last year. And those numbers don’t really reflect the impact on the global food supply as a result of the Russian-Ukrainian war. Nationally, we face another impending disaster – another wave of bird flu that is forcing farmers to cull their flocks by the millions and has sent the price of eggs sold to retailers skyrocketing to between $2.80 and $2.89. $ per dozen for large white Grade A eggs – which is more than double what they cost just a month ago – $1.25 per dozen according to the USDA’s Midwest Regional Egg Report . According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, weekly household spending on food at home now stands at $148, up from $113 a week before the pandemic hit – and hit us hard in the world of food.

Many simply blame “inflation” – but the reality we face goes way beyond that. A slow return of many workers to the labor pool, there are now more than 112,000 job openings in the food industry according to the Consumer Brands Association. The American Trucking Association still estimates that the industry needs more than 80,000 drivers. walmart

announced last week that they were offering entry-level truckers up to $110,000 in their first year with the company (compared to the average trucker salary of $50,340 according to BLS data).

According to information from Rabobank, prices for refrigerated containers and dry vans jumped another 4-5% in January. The cost of transporting fear across our seas has increased 10 times. Climatic conditions across the world have had a negative effect on agricultural yields, creating supply shortages. And I won’t even touch on the inefficiency of our food production facilities which in some cases are still operating at almost half capacity.

One topic that is not discussed or addressed – which we need to do – is that the BLS data does not accurately address these price increases based on household income. For low-income households who spend a disproportionate share of their money on food at home, the impact is much greater. It is the inequality of inflation that needs to be understood and addressed. An example is that the price of eggs is rising due to supply chain issues and the shift to more cage-free eggs is skyrocketing (which doesn’t even take into account the millions of hens that need to be culled in recent bird flu) – for many of us there is little impact – but for low-income households who consume eggs as their main source of protein, the impact is much greater.

We must commit, as we continue to see food prices climb over the next few months, to fully understand the impact on all populations and not just watch and report the averages that can make headlines easy and telling. . The reality is much worse for many Americans.


BlsTable 2. Consumer Price Index for all urban consumers (CPI-U): US city average, by detailed expenditure category


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