Beef prices were 12 percent higher than a year ago, helping to drive overall food prices upward, said the Labor Department on Tuesday. The monthly Consumer Price Index report said food prices were 3.7 percent higher but the U.S. inflation rate slowed slightly in August.
Americans will see the second year in a row of larger-than-usual food price increases, with food inflation now forecast at 3.5 percent this year, following the pandemic-driven 3.4 percent increase of 2020, said USDA economists on Thursday.
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.
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.
Noting complaints about dwindling competition, the USDA listed several ways to improve price transparency in the cattle market on Wednesday and offered to assist stakeholders and policymakers in exploring options to assure fair prices and level the playing field between producers and processors.
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)
The U.S. hog inventory is up 3 percent from a year ago, according to a quarterly report by USDA. Beef and poultry production are also expanding, leading USDA to forecast a nearly 4-percent increase in the meat supply this year. The increase is so large that per capita meat consumption is expected to increase by 5.6 pounds, to 222.4 pounds per person.