Beef, chicken, seafood, eggs, milk, snacks, even baby food. Americans are seeing rising prices or inflation every time they make a trip to the grocery store.
The cost of groceries — what the government calls “food at home” — rose sharply in November for the eighth month in a row.
The result: The increase in grocery prices over the past 12 months climbed to 6.4%. It’s the steepest advance since a short-lived spike in 2008 and the second biggest gain since 1990.
What’s worse, prices are likely to remain high for a while. The cost of animal feed, farm crops for human consumption, fertilizer, packaging and transportation have also risen sharply.
High inflation has eaten away at Americans’ confidence in the economy and the Biden White House’s role in trying to tackle the problem. Republicans are putting the blame on Democrats to try to get a leg up on the pivotal 2022 congressional elections.
Some states are even considering junking or suspending grocery taxes to help out.
In the meantime Americans are paying the price — particular middle-class and less well-off families who spend a high proportion of their income on food. Just look at the increase in the cost of popular grocery items over the past year:
Beef — 21%
Pork — 16.8%
Poultry — 8.4%
Fresh seafood — 10.6%
Eggs — 8%
Fresh milk — 6%
Fresh fruit — 5.8%
Soft drinks — 7.4%
Coffee — 7.5%
Cooking oil — 12.9%
Peanut butter — 6.8%
The Federal Reserve, the nation’s inflation-fighting body, has clearly been caught off guard by how fast inflation has risen.
Central bank leaders insist the rise in prices will subside toward the end of next year, but they are worried enough to speed up plans to end their massive stimulus program for the U.S. economy that some say has contributed to high inflation.
Economists also expect inflation to ease in 2022 as major supply-chain bottlenecks and shortages of materials and labor ease.
“The jump in food prices is largely due to higher oil prices and the pass-through of higher costs of transportation and fertilizer,” said senior economist Bill Adams of PNC Financial Services. “These sources of inflation should fade in 2022 as supply catches up with demand and supply chain turmoil subsides.”
Yet how quickly inflation fades, and how much, is still anyone’s guess.
For American families, relief can’t come fast enough. inflation is now outstripping a rapid increase in wages and making it harder to make ends meet.