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Holiday Chefs Will Struggle to Fend Off Food Inflation This Year

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Americans will be dishing out more for their holiday feasts this year, as prices jump for traditional Christmas entrées and some popular side dishes. But holiday chefs can feel free to splurge on healthy side-dish options — more vegetables, the prices for which are little changed year over year. 

A broad acceleration of food price inflation has been underway since May 2020, around the beginning of the COVID lockdowns. Gro’s US Food Price Index, which reflects price movements based on consumption of a wide range of food items, is up 27% from this time last year, with the biggest increases in meat and poultry. 

Gro’s US Food Price Index is up 27% from this time last year, highlighting a broad acceleration of food price inflation. The index reflects price movements based on consumption of a wide range of food items, including grains, fruit, vegetables, proteins, and milk. Click on the image to learn more about the Food Price Index.

With turkey prices at six-year highs, serving the US’s most popular Christmas dinner — turkey with all of the trimmings — will be more expensive, as Gro wrote about here. And switching up the main-course menu will not avoid the pinch. Prices for other popular Christmas main dishes, such as beef, poultry, and pork, have also jumped. 

Wholesale US beef prices are up 25% versus last year, while poultry prices have doubled, putting sharp upward pressure on retail prices as well. Meanwhile, elevated pork prices, especially for boneless hams, might ruin consumers' appetite for Christmas ham. Since late October, US pork cold storage levels have been 30% below the five-year average. As boneless hams require more labor to remove the bone, they are in even tighter supply. 

Many of the factors that led to protein products’ dramatic price increases can be traced back to 2020, when COVID caused production plants to shut down. Production slowdowns forced farmers to cull their herds and scale back future production as uncertainty persisted. Today, protein prices remain elevated due to a combination of reduced supply, including from labor shortages, and increased consumer and food service demand. 

Dinner rolls, macaroni and cheese, and Christmas ravioli also cost more this year because US wheat supplies have dropped to a 14-year low. Durum wheat, the variety most commonly used for pasta, suffered severe production setbacks this year due to drought conditions in the US and Canada. Durum production in the US fell to a 60-year low, and dropped by half in Canada, a top exporter. 

Vegetable dishes may be the only space on the dinner table that won’t break the bank. While fresh produce at the producer price level has seen high volatility this year, retailers have so far largely held the line on passing the costs onto consumers for a variety of items from potatoes to asparagus and lettuce, as seen in this produce display. That could change early in the new year, however — crop damage from recent freezes in the Southwest, together with higher freight costs, could push up retail prices in coming weeks. 

Gro’s US Food Price Index is updated daily and provides an inflation estimate for the current month, which is up to six weeks ahead of when official data becomes available from the US government. The Index provides a daily aggregation of price movements based on consumption of various food items, including grains, fruit, vegetables, proteins, and milk. Contact support@gro-intelligence.com for more information about Gro’s various food price analytical tools and indices. 

-Related Insights: 

US Produce Price Volatility to Continue in 2022, Gro Expects

Turkey Sticker Shock Is on the Menu for Thanksgiving

US Food Prices Jump 20%, Gro Index Shows

US Dairy Prices Jump as Milk Production Growth Slows


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