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Plenty of ingredients go into the price of American foods, and although food prices on average have risen just 2.2 percent the past 12 months, you'll have to shell out more for some of the items that are staples in many of our households.
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Food price increases are in the offing well before a grower harvests a single eggplant. If you're a farmer and you need to fix your tractor, for example, you're probably affected by the price of steel, up 125 percent the past 12 months.
Then there are the prices of commodities generally, which are often set on a global scale. Corn prices, for example, have gone up 90 percent the past 12 months, and that's primarily because of increased buying from overseas. “China has been buying a lot more corn over the last several months — it's a little unclear why, but they are,” says Jayson Lusk, head of the Department of Agricultural Economics at Purdue University.
And finally, there's the cost of energy, which affects the price of everything from the fertilizer for the crops to the trucks that deliver the goods to the grocery. Oil prices are up 81 percent over the past year.
As you gear up for summer barbecues, some items are going to be much more expensive than they were last summer — in part because last summer you cooked for just the people in your house, rather than friends and neighbors. This summer, you can either go whole hog and pay more for your food, or switch to lower-cost alternatives, such as chicken thighs rather than wings or hamburger rather than steak.
1. Chicken wings
In August 2018, chicken wing prices were at seven-year lows, retailing at $1.32 a pound. Sound about right? Not anymore. Wings now average $3.54 a pound, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), up from $2.77 a year ago.
Why have wings taken off? Producers say that production has been flat, but demand from barbecue-deprived Americans is extremely strong. The winter storm that ripped through Texas in February took a heavy toll on poultry and other livestock, and farmers have not been able to increase production as much as they normally do in the summer. A labor shortage at meat plants hasn't helped, either.