Food prices continued to rise in August, putting pressure on low- and middle-income households in particular.
The cost of food for home cooking increased by 13.5% compared to August 2021, the highest growth since March 1979, government data shows. The annual increase in the US consumer price index was 8.3% in August. Food, overall, was 11.4% more expensive than the previous year, the biggest annual increase since May 1979. The cost of eating out in August rose 8% year-on-year.
Eggs had the biggest price increase among grocery items. They were 39.8% more expensive in August than the previous year. Both supply and demand contributed to the upward price pressure. Bird flu wiped out about 1[ads1]0% of egg production nationwide earlier this year, an egg producer previously told MarketWatch.
Bird flu also affected poultry production. The price of chicken was 16.6% higher in August than it had been a year earlier. In addition to extreme heat and tight supplies, consumers have shifted their purchases toward chicken from typically more expensive beef, according to Brian Earnest, chief animal protein economist at CoBank, a national cooperative bank that serves industries across rural America.
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The prices of dairy and processed food also rose. Margarine rose 38.3% in August year-on-year, and butter prices were 24.6% higher, mainly due to the cost of such raw materials as soybean oil and cream. Flour and prepared flour mixtures were 23.3% more expensive than the previous year. Crack prices were up 17.7% from the previous year, and frozen baked goods, such as pies and tarts, rose 18.1%.
“pp. They were 39.8% more expensive in August than the previous year.“
Despite falling beef and pork prices, processed meats such as hot dogs and lunch meats continued to see higher prices in August. Frankfurter prices were up 18.3% in August compared to August 2021, while lunch meat prices were up 18.2%. This is partly due to labor shortages across the industry, CoBank’s Earnest said, with the higher wages needed to attract workers being passed on to consumers.
The prices of fresh fruit and vegetables increased by 7.9% in August, and salad in particular was 15.2% more expensive. The Wall Street Journal reported that extreme heat in western states may be a contributing factor. Increased summer heat led to diseases in lettuce and significantly reduced the size of the crop, growers say.
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“We have yet to see a peak in food inflation,” Scott Brave, senior consumer economist at market research firm Morning Consult, told MarketWatch. “And the longer it goes on, the higher it gets, the harder it will be, especially for people with lower incomes, to afford these price increases.”
Families with lower incomes felt the greatest impact from inflation as a higher proportion of their disposable income goes towards purchasing gas RB00,
tools and groceries, say experts. Average national gasoline prices have fallen in recent months from a peak of more than $5 a gallon in June to $3.69 in September, according to the Energy Information Administration.
“Fresh fruits and vegetables rose 7.9% in August, but lettuce was 15.2% more expensive, hit by extreme heat in the western US“
Consumers – especially lower income households – benefited from the drop in gas prices. But the rise in food prices has absorbed much of that relief, Morning Consult’s Brave said.
About two-thirds of Americans reported at the end of July that they had worried at least once in the previous month about not being able to afford groceries, according to a LendingTree survey. Women, Generation Z members and millennials were among those most concerned about the increase in food prices.
At the same time, households with young children and low-income families also reported a high level of stress in putting bread on the table. The report found that households with annual incomes of less than $35,000 were the most anxious about inflation, with 74% expressing concern about the affordability of groceries.
American families can save money by eating at home, as the cost of an average meal at a restaurant is 3½ times that of having the same meal at home with grocery items, according to David Portalatin, a food analyst at market research firm NPD Group.
More people may choose to visit restaurants less often in response to stubborn inflation, he told MarketWatch. “Inflationary pressures are actually going to drive more consumers to the grocery store than restaurants,” even though grocery prices have increased at a higher rate than restaurant prices, Portalatin said. “The grocery store is still much less expensive than a restaurant meal.”