Food price conversations

Next month will bring fireworks and the celebration of our freedom. It’s also a month of some great national food holidays such as baked bean month, blueberry month, grilling month, hot dog month and ice cream month.

Celebrating a food holiday can make a normal meal fun and exciting and potentially offer an opportunity to talk about why certain food items are costing more to put on the dining room or patio table. Last month, US Department of Agriculture put consumers on notice that they might encounter sticker shock as they prepared for Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of America’s grilling season.

It didn’t take the Memorial Day holiday for me to have such a conversation. While feasting on an Easter dinner two months ago that featured deviled eggs, turkey and lamb, family and friends inquired why the price of pork was so high. I also had a conversation with a cousin addressing questions about rising beef prices.

Are you prepared to have such conversations over the grill or at the picnic table while passing the mustard, ketchup or relish? Below are some stats about rising food prices to help you with those conversations.

– There are fears that a 10 percent decrease in the pork supply may mean going without bacon, but according to economists at the University of Missouri, bacon lovers have nothing to fear. While it’s true that frozen supplies of most pork cuts were down in April compared to a year ago, the exception was pork bellies, which were up 47 percent from a year ago.

– USDA says the consumer price index for U.S. beef is up almost 10 percent so far in 2014, reflecting the fastest increase in retail beef prices in 11 years. Prices, even after adjusting for inflation, are also at record highs.

– Beef and veal prices for the whole of 2014 are now forecast to increase by 5.5 percent to 6.5 percent, a sharp advance from a previous forecast for a 3 percent to 4 percent rise.

– Pork prices are set to rise by 3 percent to 4 percent, up from a 2 percent to 3 percent advance expected earlier this year.

– Compared to a year ago, both fresh beef and the pork retail prices are up by about 13 percent.

– Egg prices are also climbing — up 15 percent in April alone — and are expected to rise by 5 percent to 6 percent on the year.

– Higher milk prices are feeding through to other products in the dairy case, particularly cheese.