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Heading to the grocery to pick up some supplies for a summer BBQ could leave you walking away with sticker shock after you hit the meat section. That’s because ground beef saw a massive increase in price—it’s currently up a whopping 36% from last year, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.
A perfect storm of factors has created the intense price hike just in time for July.
One is severe drought, which plagued the upper Midwest pastureland at the start of the year. In fact, the USDA crop progress reported more than 50% of U.S. pastures as rated poor to very poor in May. Less green grass means fewer slaughtered cows to feed to the supply chain.
Another factor that has targeted non-locally sourced products is high gasoline prices, which affects pricing along the supply chain due to increased transportation costs.
There also may be one more sinister answer lurking behind the high price tag—price gouging. Consumer protection advocates say that meat companies may be raising prices with market power, according to Vox. Quarterly earnings show record profits at a time when meat companies are saying they are struggling amid inflation pressures–and hiding price hikes behind it. And it’s not the ranchers who are making these profits either, but the few companies who control the beef industry.
President Biden addressed this meat monopoly during a brief about inflation’s impact on the economy on May 10.
“We basically have four meat processors in the whole country,” he said a few weeks ago. “They process the meat that goes into the hamburgers you buy, so they set the price. When there’s no competition, they can set the price higher and higher.”
It’s not just meat making its way to the top of your grocery expenses. Eggs have skyrocketed to a 30% increase over last year and wine is expected to get more expensive, thanks to a glass bottle shortage starting late last year.