ERS Charts of Note

Subscribe to get highlights from our current and past research, Monday through Friday, or see our privacy policy.
See also: Editors' Pick 2018: Best of Charts of Note gallery.

Reset

Food price inflation varies across U.S. metropolitan areas

Thursday, May 26, 2016

U.S. metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) experience different rates of inflation for food sold in supermarkets, supercenters, convenience stores, and other retailers. For example, from 2006 to 2015, retail food prices rose 34.4 percent in Pittsburgh but only 17.4 percent in Detroit. Several factors account for variations in food price inflation across MSAs. Changes to the costs associated with transporting food products to the grocery store can also vary geographically, and volatile fuel prices can contribute to variation in retail food price inflation across MSAs. Fluctuations in retail overhead costs, such as labor and rent, may also differ from one area to another. Increases in retail overhead costs are often passed onto consumers as higher prices. However, in MSAs with falling consumer incomes, grocers may not be able to pass on price increases to budget-constrained consumers, dampening food price inflation. This chart appears in “Retail Food Price Inflation Varies Geographically” in the May 2016 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Swings in field crop prices have relatively small impacts on food prices

Monday, May 9, 2016

U.S. commodity prices are much more volatile than restaurant and grocery-store prices, suggesting that fluctuations in prices of major field crops—corn, wheat, and soybeans—have a relatively small impact on food prices. From 1992 to 2015, the average farm price of these crops, weighted by total production, has fluctuated widely year to year—falling as much as 26.2 percent in 2013 and rising as much as 38 percent in 1995 and 2007. All-food price inflation, on the other hand, averaged 2.5 percent per year over the same time period. One reason for the relative stability in food prices, as compared to field crop prices, is that food prices reflect the costs of processing, marketing, and retailing the food products in addition to the cost of the commodity inputs. ERS's 2014 Food Dollar Series reports that the farmgate price of all food commodities (crops and livestock) was 14.5 cents of every consumer dollar spent on food and beverages. This chart appears in Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials on the ERS website, updated April 12, 2016.

Retail price forecasts for 2016 vary by food category

Monday, April 11, 2016

Grocery store food prices are forecast to rise between 1.5 and 2.5 percent in 2016, exceeding the 2015 increase of 1.2 percent, with some variation across food categories. Egg prices are expected to fall between 0.5 and 1.5 percent as the egg industry recovers from the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreak, which reduced the supply of eggs in the U.S. market and drove retail egg prices up by 17.8 percent in 2015. Retail beef and veal prices will also likely decline in 2016, dropping up to 1 percent below 2015 levels. Like eggs, beef, and veal prices experienced higher than average inflation in 2015, but as producers expand their herds, more cattle will be ready for market in 2016. On the other hand, prices for pork and dairy products, which experienced deflation in 2015, are expected to increase up to 1 percent, and 2 to 3 percent, respectively. As the drought continues throughout much of California, ERS forecasts prices for fresh fruits and vegetables to rise between 2.5 and 3.5 percent. More information on ERS’s food price forecasts can be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product, updated March 25, 2016.

2016 food price inflation expected to exceed 2015

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Over the last decade, retail food price inflation in the United States has bounced around a bit, with yearly price increases ranging from 0.3 to 6.4 percent. In 2007 and 2008, grocery store prices rose 4.2 and 6.4 percent, respectively—well above the 20-year annual average increase of 2.6 percent. Inflation during these years was largely due to a rapid increase in farm-level prices for rice, grains, and oilseeds. The low inflation in 2009 (0.5 percent) and 2010 (0.3 percent) reflected the Great Recession’s downward pressure on retail food price inflation. Prices again rose above average in 2011 as grocery prices adjusted post-recession. From 2012 through 2015, food price inflation varied, but stayed below average. Despite high egg and beef prices in 2015, food price inflation, at 1.2 percent, was less than 2014’s 2.4-percent rise. Lower pork, fresh fruit, and fats/oils prices helped ease overall food price inflation in 2015. In 2016, ERS expects retail food prices to increase between 2 and 3 percent, with some variation among grocery subcategories. For instance, fresh fruit prices are expected to rise 2.5 to 3.5 percent in 2016, while egg prices are expected to decrease between 0.5 and 1.5 percent. More information on ERS’s food price forecasts can be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product, updated February 25, 2016.

Retail egg prices rose 21 percent in third quarter 2015

Monday, February 8, 2016

Egg prices are among the most volatile in the grocery store. Unlike many other retail foods, shell eggs have a limited shelf life—they cannot be frozen or canned. If demand increases or supplies fall, there is limited inventory to draw upon and retail prices may rise. While some price fluctuations are expected due to seasonal demand for eggs throughout the year, there have been some above-average price increases over the past 16 years, mainly due to disease outbreaks affecting poultry or surges in feed prices. The most recent upswing in retail egg prices was largely due to an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), which affected table-egg-laying flocks, primarily in the Midwest. To contain the outbreak, which ran from late 2014 to June 2015, producers destroyed about 33 million hens (roughly 11 percent of U.S. egg-laying hens). Retail egg prices rose 20.9 percent in the third quarter of 2015, and egg prices in September 2015, were 36.2 percent higher than in September 2014. As the industry recovers from the outbreak, retail egg prices have begun to adjust, falling 3.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015. This chart appears in “Retail Egg Price Volatility in 2015 Reflects Farm Conditions” in the February 2016 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Ingredient costs for an apple pie up 3.1 percent from October 2014

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

U.S. net farm income—a measure of the sector’s profitability—is forecast to be $55.9 billion in 2015, down 38 percent from 2014’s estimate of $90.4 billion. If realized, the 2015 forecast for net farm income would be the lowest since 2002 (in both real and nominal terms) and a drop of 55 percent from the recent high of $123.3 billion in 2013. Lower crop receipts (declining by $18.2 billion) and livestock receipts (declining by $25.4 billion) are the main drivers of the change, as total production expenses are projected down by 2 percent ($7.7 billion) and government payments are forecast to increase about 10 percent ($1.0 billion) in 2015. Net cash income is forecast at $93.0 billion, down about 28 percent from the 2014 estimate. Net cash income is projected to decline less than net farm income primarily because it reflects the sale of carryover stocks from 2014. This chart is found in 2015 Farm Sector Income Forecast, released November 24, 2015.

Inflation-adjusted prices for a few food categories have fallen since 1985

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Over the past 30 years, grocery store prices have risen 4.5 percent above economy-wide prices, indicating that food prices have risen faster than some other consumer goods, such as housing and transportation. Inflation-adjusted (real) prices for poultry and dairy products have been stable, while real prices for red meats, eggs, and fresh fruits and vegetables grew by 18, 21.5, and 40 percent between 1985 and 2014, respectively. Over the same time period, real prices for fats and oils, sugar and sweets, and nonalcoholic beverages fell. A main ingredient in many nonalcoholic beverages is corn sweeteners, which have decreased in price nearly 20 percent since 1985. Processed foods, many of which are included in the sugar and sweets category, are less affected by commodity-level price swings and are generally more closely linked to the costs of inputs such as electricity and wages. Industrial electricity costs and manufacturing wages both increased at a rate about 10 percent lower than overall inflation since 1985. This chart appears in “Growth in Inflation-Adjusted Food Prices Varies by Food Category” in ERS’s July 2015 Amber Waves magazine.

Retail pork and chicken prices down from a year ago, beef prices higher

Thursday, July 2, 2015

When shopping at the meat counter this Fourth of July, consumers may notice differences in prices per pound compared to last year. A pound of pork chops sold for $3.79 in May 2015 compared to $4.11 per pound in May 2014, a decrease of 7.8 percent. The price of boneless chicken breasts has also fallen, decreasing by 1.9 percent over the last year to $3.41 per pound. In contrast, beef prices are up this year, largely due to drought conditions throughout the Southern Plains and Southwest. Higher feed costs and decreased water supplies forced farmers to shrink their herd sizes to historically low levels in 2014, causing beef prices to rise by more than 10 percent over the last year. On average, consumers are paying $0.28 more per pound for ground beef and $1.23 more per pound for sirloin steak in May 2015 compared to a year earlier. Information on ERS’s food price forecasts can be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product.

California drought continues, but produce inflation expected to be near historical average

Monday, April 20, 2015

The California drought continues into 2015—as of March, 42 percent of the State is classified under the exceptional drought rating. Despite these conditions, U.S. fresh fruit and vegetable price inflation is expected to be close to its historical average in 2015. ERS predicts fresh fruit prices will increase 2.5 to 3.5 percent and fresh vegetable prices 2.0 to 3.0 percent. While California does grow a large percentage of many U.S. fresh fruits and vegetables, portions of the produce purchased in grocery stores are imported from various foreign markets. Currently, the strong U.S. dollar is making foreign produce relatively less expensive, putting downward pressure on U.S. retail produce prices. Commodities that are grown almost entirely in California and whose supplies are not largely supplemented by imports could begin to experience higher price increases in 2015. This chart appears in the Food Prices and Consumers section of the California Drought: Farm and Food Impacts page on the ERS website. Information on ERS’s food price forecasts can be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product.

Retail food prices up 3.5 percent at the end of 2014

Friday, March 27, 2015

Grocery store food prices in the fourth quarter of 2014 were 3.5 percent higher than a year earlier. At-home food price inflation over the last 20 years has averaged around 2.6 percent per year, indicating that 2014 ended the year with higher than average food price inflation. Beef and veal prices saw the largest increase, rising 18.2 percent from the fourth quarter of 2013, the result of historically low U.S. herd sizes and steady consumer demand. Pork prices were up 9.3 percent, as Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) in the United States affected the supply of hogs available for market. However, some food categories saw price increases over the same time period that were lower than average. Retail prices for cereals and bakery products rose just 0.4 percent, and fats and oils rose 1.5 percent. The relatively low rate of inflation for these two categories was predominantly due to large supplies of soybeans and wheat from strong U.S. production. This chart is from ERS’s data product, Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials, updated March 23, 2015. More information on ERS’s food price forecasts can be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product, updated March 27, 2015.

Lower oil prices may temper 2015 food price inflation

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Oil prices began declining in the last quarter of 2014, continuing their descent to just above $45 a barrel in January 2015 from $105 in July 2014. Barrel prices have not dipped this low since the end of the Great Recession in 2009. Through their impact on transportation costs and the cost of operating farm machinery, oil prices play a role in retail food prices, and declining oil prices could ease grocery store inflation. However, the effect is likely to be modest because processing costs and retailing overhead are larger cost components of retail food prices. Prices of foods requiring little processing, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, are more likely to be affected by lower oil prices than processed foods such as cereals and bakery products. As oil prices fell in 2009, fresh produce prices decreased 4.8 percent, while prices for cereals and bakery products rose 3.2 percent. Despite lower oil prices, ERS currently predicts overall food prices to rise between 2 and 3 percent in 2015, closely in line with 2014 food price inflation. Information on ERS’s food price forecasts can be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product.

Despite record-high beef prices, 2014 food inflation was close to 20-year average

Friday, February 6, 2015

Retail food price inflation has been more volatile in recent years. In 2007 and 2008, grocery store (food-at-home) prices rose 4.2 and 6.4 percent, respectively, as a result of rapid increases in farm-level rice, grain, and oilseed prices. The Great Recession helped push down at-home food price inflation to just 0.5 percent in 2009 and 0.3 percent in 2010. Inflation was again higher than the 20-year average in 2011, reaching 4.8 percent. However, in 2014 retail food prices rose 2.4 percent, near the 20-year annual average of 2.6 percent. While retail food price inflation was modest in 2014, food categories in the perimeter of the grocery store—beef and veal, pork, eggs, dairy, and fresh fruit—all experienced above average inflation. In contrast, items in the center aisles experienced inflation below average or, in some instances, even saw deflation; prices for sugars and sweets and for nonalcoholic beverages fell in 2014. Information on ERS’s food price forecasts can be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product, updated January 23, 2015.

Editor's Pick 2014:<br>California droughts are but one factor in higher retail produce prices

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The severity and duration of the ongoing drought in California has raised concerns over its role in rising food prices at the grocery store, especially for fresh fruits and vegetables. In 2012, California produced nearly 50 percent (by value) of the nation’s vegetables and non-citrus fruit. Droughts in California are generally associated with higher retail prices for produce, but price increases are lagged due to the time it takes for weather conditions and planting decisions to alter crop production, which then influence retail prices. In 2005, following five years of drought, retail fruit prices rose 3.7 percent and retail vegetable prices increased 4 percent. Prices continued to rise in 2006, one year after drought conditions began to improve. However, other factors such as energy prices and consumer demand also affect retail produce prices. For example, prices for fresh produce fell in 2009 despite drought conditions, as the 2007-09 recession reduced foreign and domestic demand for many retail foods. As of October 2014, ERS analysts are forecasting fresh fruit prices to increase 4.5 to 5.5 percent in 2014 and vegetable prices to be 2 to 3 percent higher. This chart appears in the Food Prices and Consumers section of the 2014 California Drought page on the ERS website. Information on ERS’s food price forecasts can be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product, updated October 24, 2014. Originally published Thursday October 30, 2014.

Editor's Pick 2014: <br>California droughts are but one factor in higher retail produce prices

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The severity and duration of the ongoing drought in California has raised concerns over its role in rising food prices at the grocery store, especially for fresh fruits and vegetables. In 2012, California produced nearly 50 percent (by value) of the nation’s vegetables and non-citrus fruit. Droughts in California are generally associated with higher retail prices for produce, but price increases are lagged due to the time it takes for weather conditions and planting decisions to alter crop production, which then influence retail prices. In 2005, following five years of drought, retail fruit prices rose 3.7 percent and retail vegetable prices increased 4 percent. Prices continued to rise in 2006, one year after drought conditions began to improve. However, other factors such as energy prices and consumer demand also affect retail produce prices. For example, prices for fresh produce fell in 2009 despite drought conditions, as the 2007-09 recession reduced foreign and domestic demand for many retail foods. As of October 2014, ERS analysts are forecasting fresh fruit prices to increase 4.5 to 5.5 percent in 2014 and vegetable prices to be 2 to 3 percent higher. This chart appears in the Food Prices and Consumers section of the 2014 California Drought page on the ERS website. Information on ERS’s food price forecasts can be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product, updated October 24, 2014. Originally published Thursday October 30, 2014.

Food accounts for 13 percent of American households' budgets

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

With a 12.9-percent share, food ranked third behind housing (33.6 percent) and transportation (17.6 percent) in a typical American household’s 2013 expenditures. Breaking down food spending further, 7.8 percent of expenditures were spent at the grocery store and 5.1 percent at restaurants. Price changes for the items in the different budget categories relative to each other play a role in the categories’ shares of annual household consumer expenditures. Over the last 10 years, retail food price inflation has often outpaced economy-wide inflation. Between 2004 and 2013, prices for all U.S. goods and services rose an average of 2.4 percent per year, while food prices increased an average of 2.8 percent. Despite higher food price inflation, food’s share of consumer expenditures fell slightly (0.4 percentage points) over the decade, as the budget shares for health care and housing rose. This chart appears in the ERS data product, Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials. More information on ERS’s food price forecasts can be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product.

California droughts are but one factor in higher retail produce prices

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The severity and duration of the ongoing drought in California has raised concerns over its role in rising food prices at the grocery store, especially for fresh fruits and vegetables. In 2012, California produced nearly 50 percent (by value) of the nation’s vegetables and non-citrus fruit. Droughts in California are generally associated with higher retail prices for produce, but price increases are lagged due to the time it takes for weather conditions and planting decisions to alter crop production, which then influence retail prices. In 2005, following five years of drought, retail fruit prices rose 3.7 percent and retail vegetable prices increased 4 percent. Prices continued to rise in 2006, one year after drought conditions began to improve. However, other factors such as energy prices and consumer demand also affect retail produce prices. For example, prices for fresh produce fell in 2009 despite drought conditions, as the 2007-09 recession reduced foreign and domestic demand for many retail foods. As of October 2014, ERS analysts are forecasting fresh fruit prices to increase 4.5 to 5.5 percent in 2014 and vegetable prices to be 2 to 3 percent higher. This chart appears in the Food Prices and Consumers section of the 2014 California Drought page on the ERS website. Information on ERS’s food price forecasts can be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product, updated October 24, 2014.

Grocery store prices for beef, pork, and eggs are up as U.S. supplies decrease

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Retail food-at-home prices in the second quarter of 2014 were 2.3 percent higher than a year ago, as most at-home food categories increased in price. Retail beef and veal prices were up 10.8 percent as the supply of beef is strained by historically low herd sizes. Over the same time period, pork prices increased 11.2 percent, partially the result of the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus, which has reduced litter sizes and increased piglet mortality. Egg prices are also up, in part due to increasing exports and a strong domestic demand for eggs and egg products. The increases in beef and veal, pork, and egg prices are the largest year-over-year increases since the fourth quarter of 2011. This chart appears in the Food Prices and Spending section of ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials data product, updated September 10, 2014. More information on ERS’s food price forecasts can also be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product.

Processing and marketing costs lessen volatility of retail food prices

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Droughts, floods, and other shocks to farming can lead to swings in the prices paid for farm commodities. Volatility in farm commodity prices—measured by the Producer Price Index (PPI) for Farm Products—and in intermediate foods—measured by the PPI for Processed Foodstuffs and Feedstuffs—is often greater than price volatility in grocery stores and restaurants. Prices move in the same direction, but the magnitude of the price changes varies. For instance, in 2011 the Farm Products PPI rose by 23.6 percent, while the Processed Foodstuffs and Feedstuffs PPI increased by 8.3 percent and the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for All Food by 3.2 percent. Price fluctuations for intermediate and retail foods are muted relative to that of farm products because prices for these foods include processing, transportation, and marketing costs. According to ERS’s Food Dollar Series, farm and agribusiness costs only represented 10.8 cents of every dollar spent on food in 2011. This chart appears in “Food Price Transmissions from Farm to Retail” in the May 2014 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Drought affects California agriculture, irrigation water deliveries a growing concern

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The driest year on record for California, following several prior years of drought, is likely to have an impact on the State’s agricultural production in 2014. On January 17, 2014, the Governor of California declared a drought emergency and as of March 4, over 94 percent of California’s nearly $45 billion agricultural sector was experiencing severe, extreme, or exceptional drought. The livestock sector is more directly exposed to exceptional drought (about 62 percent) than the crop sector (just over 50 percent). Given that much of California’s agricultural production takes place on irrigated land, effects of the drought depend on the cost and availability of water from irrigation in addition to local rainfall. Shortages of irrigation water sourced from snowfall are already evident, and the extent to which growers will be able to offset these reduced surface water supplies by pumping groundwater is uncertain. Find the table underlying this chart and additional analysis in California Drought 2014: Farm and Food Impacts.

U.S. food price inflation has trended downward since the 1970s

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

On average, food price inflation in the United States has been falling over the past several decades. Since 2010, food prices have risen by an average of 2.1 percent a year. By contrast, the 1970s saw the all-food Consumer Price Index (CPI) increase by an average of 8.1 percent annually, led by increases of 14.5 and 14.3 percent in 1973 and 1974, respectively. The 1970s were a time of high energy prices and high inflation for consumer goods, including food. In the 1980s, the all-food CPI increased by an average of 4.6 percent per year, and food prices rose 2 to 3 percent per year in the following two decades. Advancements in agricultural productivity contributed to falling inflation-adjusted prices for agricultural commodities during the 1980s and 1990s. In addition, enhanced agricultural trade has allowed the U.S. food supply to better respond to supply shocks. This chart appears in "Food Prices—Taking the Long-Term View" in ERS’s April 2014 Amber Waves magazine.

Charts of Note header image for left nav