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This year, 2 pounds of ground beef will cost an average of $12.77, up more than $1, or 11%, from last year.

July 4th cookout costs skyrocket

Inflation hits the backyard, according to the American Farm Bureau’s annual Fourth of July market basket survey

Americans’ Independence Day cookout bill will be higher for 2024, according to the American Farm Bureau (AFB) Fourth of July market basket survey. The annual survey pulls prices for a complete, homemade cookout consisting of cheeseburgers, chicken breasts, pork chops, potato chips, pork and beans, fresh strawberries, homemade potato salad, fresh-squeezed lemonade, chocolate chip cookies and ice cream.

Volunteers from across the United States contributed to this year’s survey to determine the average cost of summer cookout staples. AFB’s volunteer shoppers had their most expensive Fourth of July grocery bill in the history of the survey this year; however, when adjusted for the high inflation rates plaguing the United States in recent years, the real value of their Independence Day party has not surpassed the previous record set in 2022.

A group of 10 this year can expect to pay $71.22 for their celebration, up 5% from last year and up 30% from five years ago. Nationally, this amount is surpassing $7 per person for the first time, with the total meal coming to $7.12 a person. Only two dishes decreased in price, while everything else on your table rose, on average. That grocery bill is in line with the inflation that has roiled the economy—including the farm economy—over the last several years, the American Farm Bureau said.

Meat will put the biggest dent in the grocery budget. Ground beef, pork chops and chicken breast account for 50% of the total cookout cost, as changes in the pork and beef industries are having a big effect on supermarket prices.

This year, 2 pounds of ground beef will cost an average of $12.77, up more than $1, or 11%, from last year. While there are higher numbers of fed cattle in the supply chain this spring compared to 2023, the overall cattle inventory is the smallest it has been in 73 years and beef in cold storage is setting record lows for recent years.

Many favorite side dish recipes might see the most drastic price differences from Independence Day 2023. One package of hamburger buns will cost $2.71, 7% more than 2023. Slow-to-negative milk production growth in recent months has increased the all-milk price, leading the prices for the dairy items upward. American cheese slices were relatively stable, only up 1% to $3.57 this year versus $3.53 in 2023. A half-gallon of ice cream, however, will add $5.65 to the grocery bill, up 7% from last year.

Lemon production is estimated to fall more than 16% this year, due to a citrus greening disease outbreak in California, where most U.S. lemons are produced, in late 2023. Regulatory quarantines in the area to mitigate its spread have increased costs to producers. These supply effects have raised lemon prices 13% on average from last year to $3.20 for 1.5 pounds. Sugar prices increased by 11% due to lower global production and increased high-tier tariff imports from Mexico. Made by combining 1.5 pounds of lemons with 1 pound of sugar, fresh-squeezed lemonade had the most drastic price increase on the Fourth of July table at $4.19 total, 12% higher than last year.

The second price decrease in this year’s survey, after chicken, is potato salad, down 4% from last year. The recipe is balancing out higher egg prices with lower potato prices. Two pounds of potatoes will cost an average of $1.53, 17% less than last year, recovering from record-high prices due to weather-related production decreases in recent years.

Pork and beans, potato chips, chocolate chip cookies and strawberries round out our shoppers’ Independence Day tables. Pork and beans are up 2% from 2023 but are still down from 2022. The quantity of chocolate chip cookies AFB shoppers are asked to price is also down from the record in 2022 but is 2% higher than last year. Strawberries and potato chips are both higher than the last two years. Two pints of strawberries cost $4.61 on average, less than its high in 2021. Labor shortages and wage increases across the supply chain are just one factor increasing food costs, and strawberries are a labor-intensive crop that are likely sensitive to this rising input cost. A large bag of chips costs $4.90 on average, up 8% from last year. Many of AFB’s shoppers reported sales on potato chips in their grocery store runs.

Depending on geography, grocery prices may differ from these national averages. In the majority of the country, Americans will still pay less than $7 per person. Those in the Northeast will feed 10 for $63.54. Southerners and Midwesterners will spend an average of $68.33 and $68.26, respectively. Unfortunately for those in the western United States, their grocery bill will be nearly $1 per person higher than the national average—$80.88 for a party of 10.

The increases in the cost of our cookout items reflect a number of broader economic factors. General inflation has been highly disruptive to the whole economy, leaving behind many whose incomes haven’t kept pace, said AFB. Rising supply costs and global uncertainties have created new challenges for farmers and everyone in the food supply chain. While food price increases slowed in 2023 after skyrocketing in 2022, the cookout cost has increased 30% in just five years. Consumers nationwide still view inflation and high food prices as ongoing problems. When adjusted for inflation, AFB’s survey total is 5% lower than the previous record year of 2022; but inflation reduces the purchasing power of a dollar over time, making it a problem for consumers and producers alike.

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This story was originally featured on CSP Daily News, a sister publication of Supermarket News.

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