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Wisconsinites Paying More For Fourth Of July Picnics Thanks To Higher Meat Prices

Annual Survey Of Grocery Store Prices Found Pork, Beef Prices Still Higher Than Pre-Pandemic Levels

Hotdogs are grilled in the parking lot at FedEx Field
Hotdogs are grilled in the parking lot at FedEx Field before a NFL football game between the Washington Redskins and Cincinnati Bengals in Landover, Md., Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012. Evan Vucci/AP Photo

A annual survey of grocery store prices shows the cost of meat is still running higher since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Wisconsin Farm Bureau’s Marketbasket survey found a summer picnic for 10 people costs $60.35 on average across the state. That’s 85 cents higher than the national average.

This year’s total is $3.88 more than in 2019. The Farm Bureau did not conduct a survey in 2020 because of the pandemic.

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Part of that jump comes from significant increases in meat prices. Pork spare ribs were $1.96, or almost 18 percent, more than the previous survey. Ground beef came in 82 cents, or 9 percent higher, while hotdog prices stayed steady.

The meat industry in Wisconsin and across the country is still working through the effects of the pandemic, from shutdowns at large processing plants because of COVID-19 outbreaks last spring to increased demand from consumers that has continued well into 2021.

Cassie Sonnentag, director of media relations for Wisconsin Farm Bureau, said the pandemic has revealed bottlenecks in the meat industry as well as the entire food system.

“Although supply issues we witnessed at the beginning of the pandemic have resolved themselves, the demand for food products still remains high which is why we’re seeing such robust food prices,” Sonnentag said.

Overall, eight of the 14 items on the survey increased in price. Aside from meat products, watermelon also saw a significant price increase, jumping 49 cents or 10 percent from 2019.

Sonnentag said one positive that has come out of the pandemic is that a larger share of consumers’ food dollars are going to farmers because of more in-home food consumption.

“You’re eliminating that middle purchase,” Sonnentag said. “You’re eliminating the cost of advertising, you’re eliminating that cost of hosting or opening a restaurant. So there’s definitely a higher share that goes back to the farmer when we’re eating here at home.”

A U.S. Department of Agriculture report found grocery sales increased 25 percent in 2020. The USDA estimates farmers receive 23.4 cents of every dollar spent on food consumed at home, almost 10 cents more than producers’ share of all food dollars.

Using that estimate, Sonnentag said farmers will likely receive $14.14 from this year’s Marketbasket survey total.