Detailed Findings & Methodology
The price of beef has risen faster than the prices of most foods. Over the past decade, uncooked ground beef and uncooked beef steaks had the third and seventh fastest price increases of any grocery item.
The rise in price was largely due to a beef supply shortage in the United States brought on by years of drought in the top cattle-producing regions of the country. Rising feed and energy prices also contributed to the price hike. The U.S. cattle inventory fell to a 50-year low in 2015 and remains relatively low today. The increase in the price of fresh beef — from $3.63 per pound in January 2007 to $5.68 in December 2017 — likely led many Americans to cut back on red meat. Per-capita consumption of beef in the United States fell by about 15% over the last decade.
Poultry prices have also risen especially fast in recent years. The price of eggs rose by 26.4% from 2007 to 2017, and the price of fresh whole chickens rose by 35.1%. Much of the price increase in poultry products occurred in 2015, when the worst outbreak of avian flu in U.S. history led to the deaths of approximately 10% of the country’s egg-laying hens.
Baked goods and their ingredients are also well-represented on this list. The price of butter rose 42.1% between 2007 and 2017, and the price of flour rose 26.0%. Items that require butter and flour as main ingredients, such as fresh biscuits, rolls, muffins, cakes, cupcakes, and cookies, increased in price by a similar magnitude.
The grocery item with the largest increase in price is tobacco. The price of tobacco and smoking products rose 92.2% over the past 10 years, more than four times the overall rate of inflation. The increase was largely due to a federal tax hike implemented on April 1, 2009 that increased the tax on cigarettes by 61.7 cents per pack and on dipping tobacco by 92.5 cents per pound. Partially as a result, cigarette sales declined by 8.3% in 2009 alone — the largest decline in nearly 80 years.
To determine the groceries driving up food bills the most, 24/7 Wall St. analyzed changes in the consumer price index from January 2007 to December 2017 for over 300 goods using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. To avoid double counting, only food items at the finest level of detail within the CPI food product taxonomy were included on this list.
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