July 4 barbecue prices at record highs

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With higher prices for beef, lettuce and ice cream, Americans are spending more than ever this year on the staples of a Fourth of July barbecue.

Bloomberg’s CHART OF THE DAY tracked U.S. retail prices for seven commonly grilled foods, showing a 5.1% jump overall in May from the previous year, making it the highest ever for the month, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Barbecuing is an Independence Day tradition, and July 4 is the most popular time of year to cook outdoors, says the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association. Since the Fourth falls on a Friday this year, it is likely the celebrations will continue through the weekend. Ground beef prices are 16% higher over last year, ice cream was also up 1.7% and tomatoes rose 12%.

Consumers “are becoming adjusted to these price levels,” says vice president for animal protein Don Close, of the St. Louis-based Rabobank Food and Agriculture Research and Advisory. “I would expect the overall grilling demand to be very good. The natural long weekend will be a benefit.”

The barbecue index tracks seven price indicators: ground beef, potato chips, tomatoes, American cheese, iceberg lettuce, ice cream and white bread. Ground-beef prices are at record levels, due to a decrease in the U.S. cattle herd. California droughts have increased produce costs.

“Do we expect there to be some trade-offs and some adjustments made on the behalf of some consumers? No doubt that’s going to happen,” Close told Bloomberg. “Overall, I think they’re ready to take the plunge and say, ‘Let’s go enjoy the holiday.’”

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.