By Katy Hackworthy
Life in the midst of a global pandemic has brought upon countless changes to anything from our material consumption, our time spent in public spaces, and our daily habits. Among these continuous changes is the rapid spike in grocery prices, which have hit a 46 year record high, and a rapid yet incremental decline in access to in demand items such as meat. While it’s easy to assume the increase in profits and cost are outcomes of folks cooking more meals at home and eating out less, the issue is more complex than meets the eye.
Like many industries who have been grappling with how to operate under increased concerns and regulation due to COVID 19, the food industry, while seeing an average of 25% sale increases, find themselves needing to address a bevy of new unique needs that directly impact food costs. Issues like an increased need for labor, lower production capacity, and more involved cleaning and sanitation protocols contribute to the biggest one-month jump in food prices since February 1974, according to a Consumer Price Index Summary from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Unless there is a significant shift in our current balance between supply and demand, food staples such as eggs, which have increased in price by 16.1%, and beef, which has more than doubled in price already this calendar year, will only continue to increase in price for the remainder of the year, likely at a rate of 2% to 4%. Additionally, with less supply and more demand, conventional grocery stores have all but ceased any significant sales on food staples, making it difficult to save on groceries during a time that has resulted in increased financial strain on many Americans.
Among the food industries undergoing the most rapid changes are the beef industry and dairy industry. With schools being closed, the milk and dairy industry, which relies heavily on those consistent bulk sales, are struggling with overproduction and canceled milk orders. The shift in beef demand can be traced to issues like COVID 19 related changes in the travel industry and restaurant closures. In such an uncertain time, it also doesn’t hurt to cut out any extra trips to overcrowded shopping centers during a time when many fear catching the virus and risk finding empty shelves or cost prohibitive products.
While one could argue it is almost always a preferable choice to stock up on produce, meat, and dairy from your local farm’s community supported agriculture (CSA’s) or your town’s farmer’s market, experts recommend going this route more than ever. Gathering your groceries straight from the source cuts out some of the extra costs that contribute to increased prices, as well as helps prevent food waste and boosts your community’s economy, especially if you choose to buy in bulk. All in all, with grocery prices and COVID 19 rates continuing to rise, it’s a no brainer to invest your dollars into your local community, and keep you and your family healthy, safe, and happy.