Americans have been feeling the burn from inflation for the past two years but despite prices starting to ease after reaching an all-time high last summer, firing up the grill to celebrate America’s birthday this Fourth of July holiday weekend is still expected to be expensive to host a cookout.
Food prices overall are up 5.8% from a year ago, according to the latest data report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics from May 2022 to May 2023, but the pace of increases has slowed to about half of what it was last July at 13.1%.
According to an annual survey from the National Retail Federation, Americans are planning to spend an average of $93.34 per person on food items for Fourth of July cookouts, barbecues, and picnics this year, Despite the high cost of food prices to host a cookout, the NRF survey found that about 87% of Americans are planning to celebrate America’s Independence this year, up slightly from 84% over the past two years and the most since before the coronavirus pandemic.
For those planning to celebrate the nation’s birthday, celebrants will spend $93.34 per person on various key food items, according to the retail trade association’s current projection for 2023. Roughly 65% are anticipating hosting or attending a barbeque and Americans are projected to spend $9.5 billion on Fourth of July food items, NRF researchers found.
In another report by Wells Fargo’s Fourth of July Food, some of the key ingredients needed for a typical cookout menu show the current pricing isn’t cheaper despite food inflation showing prices starting to slow down.
Sirloin steak costs $10.75 per pound, up 2.9% from a year ago while the average cost of ground beef per pound is currently $5.36 – up less than 1% from a year ago. But it is a major price relief from last year when ground beef was up 16%. Adding cheese to the cheeseburger tallies the price increase as the cost of processed cheese per pound is up 10% compared to last year.
Meanwhile, bbq fixings and snacks also point to sticker price shock. Hamburger and hotdog buns, while it is not broken down per price point, Wells Fargo report going off of BLS data states the cost of bread is 22% more than it was a year ago, with prices sitting below $2 per pound. Looking to top off the burger and hotdog with condiments, the costs for those are up 9%. As for snacks, the price of potato chips to $6.45 a pound, up 15% from the previous year while a pound of chocolate chip cookies cost $5.15, a 14% jump from a year ago. And screaming for ice cream, the cost is 9% more.
“Dairy is probably still one of the highest inflation buckets that we have currently, but when you look at what the dairymen are being paid right now for their milk as they deliver it to the factories — turned into cheese or ice cream — it’s dropped,” Wells Fargo’s chief agricultural economist Michael Swanson wrote in the Fourth of July Food Report.
Cracking open a cold beverage will also cost more. According to Wells Fargo going off of BLS data, a non-alcoholic 12-ounce soft drink costs 14% higher than a year ago, which is largely caused by the increased transportation and labor costs of moving heavier items like bottled or canned beverages. As for alcoholic beverage, beer, and malt beverages like hard seltzer, and ale is up about 8% from last year. However, if one prefers wine, these prices have remained relatively flat at about $13.4o compared to last year.
While many of July 4th favorites are pricier this year, some items can be snatched up at lower prices. The price of chicken breast declined nearly 2% compared to last year, costing $4.24 per pound. A dozen eggs are now 7% lower than a year, down from $4.82 a dozen at the start of the year with the price currently at $2.67.
In a recent informal survey by the American Farm Bureau Federation, a traditional Fourth of July cookout is reported to be the second-highest ever since it began conducting its annual survey back in 2013. Based on AFBF figures, the cost to feed a party of 10 totaled to cost $67.73 for this year’s cookout, or $6.77 per person this year, down from $6.97 in 2022. While the $67.73 grocery bill for a typical cookout is down 3% from last year’s all-time record high of $69.68, which saw every category rise by over 30% or more, it is still 17% higher than prices were in 2021 of $59.50.
The informal survey which depends on volunteers from state farm bureaus to price typical cookout items at their local grocery stores, the group measured 12 staple key cookout favorites from chopped beef, chicken breast, pork chops, hamburger buns, potato salad, snacks, and drinks, the survey notes that despite the “slight downward direction in the cost of a cookout,” it doesn’t “counter the dramatic increases” seen in the last few years.
“Although historically high, the cost of the cookout breaks down to less than $7 per person,” AFBF wrote. “If we look at the inflation numbers for food from the government, the increase wasn’t as big a year ago as we showed in our survey and the decrease doesn’t exist at all this year so I think the two-year increase of 14% is pretty much in line with the larger set of numbers.”
According to the AFBF survey, the market basket shows a year-to-year increase in the cost of hamburger buns, beef, and potato salad, but drops in the price of chicken breasts, lemonade, and cookies.
The price of a burger kept costs high as 2 pounds of beef rose 4% this year to $11.54, while the cost of 2.5 pounds of homemade potato salad was up 5% from 2022 to $3.44, according to AFBF. The retail price for a package of eight hamburger buns soared by a whopping 17% to $2.26. AFBF attributes the increases in ground beef and potatoes to several factors, including less available cattle for the summer grilling season due to drought conditions and poor weather for the drop in potato production.
AFBF notes that while some basket items saw prices increase, its survey found other staples that saw significant drops. The price of lemonade plunged the most, with a 16% decrease compared to last year to $3.73 nearly offsetting the increase in buns this year, according to AFBF who cited the drop to the cost of lemons. Meanwhile, the price of a two-pound chicken breast, which reached record-high prices in 2022 fell 9% to $8.14, while a package of cookies will cost 10% less than in 2022.
Food prices vary significantly from state to state, according to a study from Total Shape. The research found states hosting a cookout that includes meat, sides, and two beer bottles per person for 10 people is the most expensive in Massachusetts with the cost reported to be $188.22 while the most affordable state to celebrate the holiday is New Jersey at $98.05.American Farm Bureau FederationBureau of Labor StatisticsEconomyFourth of JulyInflationInflation NationNational Retail FederationWells Fargo