Hot Dogs, Watermelon and More BBQ Foods Now Have Mega-High Prices, Thanks to Inflation

Grilling meat on foil
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In May, U.S. consumer prices rose by 5% over the year before, the highest annual rate of inflation in more than a dozen years. There are many contributing factors, but two stand out above the rest — both fuel and labor have been in short supply and high demand since spring. Those two forces together put higher price tags on just about everything — and food is no exception. In fact, some of the biggest sticker shock at the grocery store involves the stuff you’re most likely to buy for your Fourth of July cookout. 

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Grilling Season Started With a Meat Crisis

Meat prices were already rising with the tide of inflation when cyber criminals attacked the largest meat producer in the world, JBS USA. The ransomware attack came just as Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial annual start of grilling season, was getting underway. JBS accounts for as much as one-fourth of America’s daily cattle harvest. 

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Just like the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack did earlier in the year with oil prices, meat prices climbed even higher in June as JBS shut down its five largest U.S. beef facilities, which handled a combined 22,500 cattle per day.

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Prepare For Sticker Shock With Burgers, Pork Chops and Steaks

According to the Washington Post, beef and pork products are seeing price increases “that far exceed the inflationary prices for other foods.” Pork prices alone are up 4.8% from a year ago compared to 1% for overall food prices. Bacon is up by a bruising 13%. Beef prices spiked by as much as 20% going into Memorial Day weekend.

A variety of factors have pushed prices up, including labor shortages in the meatpacking industry, the rising price of livestock-fattening wheat, a surge in demand from restaurants that are reopening, and steadily rising transportation costs.

Prices are getting so high, in fact, that publications like MarketWatch are predicting a boom for plant-based meat, which is less volatile despite a recent rise in the price of soybeans.

Hot Dogs Might Soon Become Appreciating Assets

In the summer of 2020, meat prices were sky-high thanks to a virus-induced shortage. But even as prices began to fall back down in the rest of the meat aisle, the cost of hot dogs kept going up and they’re still rising today — but that’s nothing new. According to the Official Data Foundation, hot dogs have experienced an average of 2.52% inflation between 2016-2021 compared to 2.01% overall inflation over the same five years. Year after year, franks get more expensive more quickly than most other goods — food or otherwise.

It’s Not Just What You’re Eating — It Costs More To Drink Now, Too

For many revelers, it’s not a barbecue until someone breaks out the adult beverages — and you can expect that, too, to cost you more this year. According to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), the cost of beer is up 2.4% over last year — 3.7% for whiskey and 1.8% for wine.

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Other Independence Day Goodies That Will Probably Cost More

The main ingredients of a great cookout get all the press, but don’t forget about the smaller stuff — it all adds up. 

  • Watermelon: The price of everyone’s favorite summer melon is rising thanks mostly to high diesel costs and the rising cost of the pallets used to ship them.
  • Cheese: According to the CPI, the cost of whole milk is up 7.2% over last year. That, according to the Cheese Reporter, is putting upward pressure on the price of cheese.
  • Condiments: Olives, pickles and relishes are 1.2% more expensive than this time last year, according to data from the CPI. Spices, seasonings, condiments and sauces are up 0.9%.
  • Aluminum foil and canned beverages: Prices are rising for both products as metal prices rise by mid-single digits.
  • Plastic and paper products: The price of napkins, paper towels, paper plates and other paper products will likely be 4%-8% more expensive this year thanks to surging pulp prices.

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Last updated: July 1, 2021

About the Author

Andrew Lisa has been writing professionally since 2001. An award-winning writer, Andrew was formerly one of the youngest nationally distributed columnists for the largest newspaper syndicate in the country, the Gannett News Service. He worked as the business section editor for amNewYork, the most widely distributed newspaper in Manhattan, and worked as a copy editor for TheStreet.com, a financial publication in the heart of Wall Street's investment community in New York City.

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