Burgers Get Costlier As Weather, Disease, And Exports Push Up Meat And Cheese Prices

The cost of grilling a hamburger is going up—and that’s before you lay those pricey lettuce, cheese, and tomato slices on top.

Retail prices for ground beef in May shot up more than 12 percent from May 2013, American cheese was up 11.1 percent, tomatoes jumped 12 percent, and lettuce cost 7.5 percent more, according to retail price data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Want a bacon cheeseburger? The slice of pork costs nearly 19 percent more this year. Hey, at least bread prices are stable.

More sour news on summer food prices: The key ingredient for fresh-squeezed lemonade fetches more than 16 percent above last year’s price levels. Expect higher prices for oranges and strawberries, too.

Farming has faced a number of serious challenges that have pushed up prices. Drought in the southern Great Plains region has reduced the country’s cattle supply, and California’s produce-growing areas continue to be dry. Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus has killed an estimated 100,000 pigs each week since May 2013. A bacterial disease called citrus greening is plaguing orange, lemon, and lime crops. Cheese prices have been rising as China’s demand for U.S. dairy increases.

The Department of Agriculture expects food price inflation to return to normal levels if weather conditions improve. There’s no guarantee: “The ongoing drought in California could potentially have large and lasting effects on fruit, vegetable, dairy, and egg prices,” the USDA notes, “and drought conditions in Texas and Oklahoma could drive beef prices up even further.”

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Source: businessweek.com

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