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Fourth of July Feast: Consumers expected to pay record-high Fourth of July cookout costs

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Flags will fly and freedom will ring as America celebrates its 248th year of independence this Fourth of July. 

In addition to setting off sparkling fireworks and attending a local parade, many will likely also partake in the popular American tradition of enjoying a feast with friends and family at a backyard barbecue. 

According to the National Retail Federation’s Annual Independence Day Spending Survey, 87 percent of the U.S population plans on celebrating the Fourth of July, 66 percent of which plan to attend a cookout, barbecue or picnic.

But, as the nation’s patriotic citizens gather to enjoy grilled burgers, juicy sweet corn and tasty potato salad, American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) Economists Bernt Nelson and Samantha Ayoub say they should expect to pay higher prices. 

In the basket

In a Market Intel report, published by AFBF on June 26, Nelson and Ayoub note volunteers across the U.S. contributed to the federation’s 2024 Fourth of July Market Basket Survey, which analyzes the average cost of summer cookout staples by pulling prices for a complete, homemade meal. 

AFBF looked at prices of cheeseburgers, chicken breasts, pork chops, potato chips, pork and beans, fresh strawberries, homemade potato salad, fresh-squeezed lemonade, chocolate chip cookies and ice cream. 

The survey found, on average, consumers can expect to pay $7.12 per person for their celebration, which surpassed the nationwide average of seven dollars for the first time. 

“With plenty of options to feed a hungry crowd, a group of 10 this year can expect to pay $71.22 for their celebration, up five percent from last year and up 30 percent from five years ago,” Nelson and Ayoub state. “Peopleʼs grocery bills may be a shock, but it is in line with the inflation that has roiled the economy – including the farm economy – over the last several years.” 

On the grill

AFBF’s economists point out meat will put the biggest dent in the grocery bill, as ground beef, chicken breasts and pork chops account for 50 percent of total cookout costs.

With the cattle inventory the smallest it has been in 73 years, record-low beef supplies in cold storage and California’s Proposition 12 in full effect, consumers will see higher beef and pork prices at the meat counter. 

Nelson and Ayoub estimate two pounds of ground beef will cost an average of $12.77, up more than 11 percent from last year, while two pounds of pork is expected to cost an average of $15.49, up eight percent from last year. 

“Increased broiler production will save wallets from some of these other protein price increases, as two pounds of chicken breasts will cost an average of $7.83, down four percent from 2023 and 13 percent from record highs in 2022,” Nelson and Ayoub report. 

While highly pathogenic avian influenza still afflicts the poultry industry, the AFBF economists note producers have increased their biosecurity measures, as well as their hatchling numbers and bird weights to mitigate losses and keep prices affordable.

All the fixins

Although consumers will spend around half of their cookout costs on meat, Nelson and Ayoub mention they will likely see the most drastic price differences elsewhere in the grocery store. 

“It’s not just ground beef prices driving up the cost of cheeseburgers. One package of hamburger buns will cost $2.71, seven percent more than in 2023,” they state, noting ending stocks of wheat are at an eight-year low.

“Slow-to-negative milk production growth in recent months has increased the all-milk price, leading prices for dairy items up,” Nelson and Ayoub continue. “American cheese slices were relatively stable, only up one percent to $3.57 this year versus $3.53 in 2023. However, a half-gallon of ice cream will add $5.65 to the grocery bill, up seven percent from last year.”

When it comes to consumers’ favorite side dishes, the AFBF report notes pork and beans are up two percent, chocolate chip cookies are up two percent and potato chips are up eight percent to an average cost of $4.90.

Potato salad is down four percent from the previous year, with two pounds of potatoes averaging $1.53, a decrease of 17 percent from 2023.

Ingredients for sweet, fresh-squeezed lemonade are also higher, with lemon production estimated to fall by 16 percent due to a citrus greening disease outbreak in California where the majority of U.S. lemons are produced. 

“In addition to disease effects on citrus trees, regulatory quarantines in the area to mitigate its spread have increased costs to producers,” Nelson and Ayoub explain. “These supply effects have raised lemon prices 13 percent on average from last year to $3.20 for 1.5 pounds.”

The AFBF economists also note sugar prices have increased by 11 percent due to lower global production and higher tariffs on Mexican imports.

“Made by combining 1.5 pounds of lemons with one pound of sugar, fresh-squeezed lemonade had the most drastic price increase on the Fourth of July table at $4.19 total, 12 percent higher than last year,” Nelson and Ayoub conclude. 

Hannah Bugas is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to roundup

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