The increases are seemingly small – an additional 27 cents for a pound of ground chuck at the grocery store, for example – but they are part of a brisk 3.5 percent increase in food prices since the pandemic hit the United States last March. The increase in food prices outpaced the overall U.S. inflation rate of 2.6 percent, the government said on Tuesday.
Prices for many categories of food have been slow to retreat from pandemic-driven peaks, said the USDA. As a result, seafood and poultry prices throughout the year will be higher than usual, bolstering the USDA forecast that grocery prices will rise by 3 percent this year.
Grocery store prices for meat are declining after their springtime coronavirus surge, but more slowly than expected, meaning that shoppers will pay noticeably more at the meat counter this year than in 2019, said USDA economists. In the monthly Food Price Outlook, the USDA forecast meat prices will rise 6.5 percent this year, more than double their usual rate.
Lower prices for meat, poultry, fish and eggs were the driving factor for a slight decline in grocery prices during August, the second month in a row that supermarket prices were down, said the monthly Consumer Price Index. Despite the decreases, food inflation ran at 4.6 percent in the past 12 months, rising far more rapidly than the overall U.S. rate of 1.3 percent.
After soaring because of coronavirus outbreaks among packing plant employees, meat prices are on the decline for the first time this year and are headed lower, said the USDA on Tuesday.
Beef prices in the grocery store are 14.2 percent higher than a year ago, part of a broad rise in prices for "food at home," said the Labor Department on Wednesday. While it was the fourth month in a row of surging grocery prices, there were signs that food inflation is easing.
Food stamp benefits will rise by 5.3 percent in October, to a maximum of $680 per month for a family of four in the continental United States, said the USDA Food and Nutrition Service on Wednesday. The cost-of-living adjustment was announced even as anti-hunger groups are calling for a temporary 15 percent increase in SNAP benefits during the pandemic.
Grocery prices will rise by a higher-than-average 3 percent this year, due largely to the coronavirus-propelled surge in the cost of meat, poultry, and fish at the supermarket, forecast the USDA on Thursday. It would be the largest annual increase since 2011. (No paywall)
Food prices rose sharply for the second month in a row, with beef recording its largest one-month increase ever, as the U.S. food inflation rate hit 4 percent in May, said the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Wednesday. It is the highest rate since January 2012. While food prices surged, the overall U.S. inflation rate for the past 12 months was a tiny 0.1 percent. (No paywall)
Thanks to declines in food prices in 2016 and 2017, grocery store prices will stand at a lower overall level at the end of this year than they were at the end of 2015, said the monthly Food Price Outlook. For the second month in a row, USDA raised its forecast of price increases for fresh vegetables but forecast a scant 0.5 percent rise in food prices for the year.