(NEW YORK) — With the cost of meat and other grocery products in the U.S. steadily increasing since the onset of the pandemic, grocery retailers and the Biden administration have weighed in on the increases, which are expected to continue through the end of the year.
The spike on certain “food-at-home” categories has stores — already slammed by inflation and demand — setting sights on higher product prices through the end of the year.
On an earnings call Friday, Kroger CFO and senior vice president Gary Millerchip said the retailer will be “passing along higher cost to the customer where it makes sense to do so.”
The nation’s largest retail operator reported a year-over-year increase in produce, floral, deli and bakery sales, but Millerchip acknowledged they are juggling pressures such as higher supply chain costs coupled with the increase in theft that could drive prices in the second half of the year.
Last week, White House statistics revealed that meat constitutes half of food-at-home price increases and that, since December 2020, prices have surged on three main products — beef, which is up 14%, pork by 12% and poultry by 6.6%.
The data, supported by the latest Consumer Price Index Summary from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, found that the cost of meats, poultry, fish and eggs increased for the seventh straight month. The newest CPI statistics for August are expected to be released this week.
As many Americans buy groceries to cut costs on eating out and others cook at home to avoid contact with in-person dining, the demand for food from retailers has continued to grow.
The Biden-Harris administration noted in a release that it’s not just consumer habits driving the higher prices.
“Price increases are also driven by a lack of competition at a key bottleneck point in the meat supply chain: meat-processing,” the memo stated.
According to the White House, the four large conglomerates that control the majority of the market for these products “have been raising prices while generating record profits during the pandemic.”
The administration said it is “taking bold action to enforce the antitrust laws, boost competition in meat-processing, and push back on pandemic profiteering that is hurting consumers, farmers and ranchers across the country.”
Americans are preparing for fall, back to school, upcoming holidays and other food-related plans where retail prices will be an important index to keep an eye on.
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