Low Inflation? The Price Of Ground Beef Has Risen 17 Percent Over The Past Year

Inflation Public DomainThanks to the Federal Reserve, the middle class is slowly being suffocated by rising food prices.  Every single dollar in your wallet is constantly becoming less valuable because of the inflation the Fed systematically creates.  And if you try to build wealth by saving money and earning interest on it, you still lose because thanks to the Federal Reserve’s near zero interest rate policies banks pay next to nothing on savings accounts.  The Federal Reserve wants you to either spend your money or to put it in the giant casino that we call the stock market.  But when Americans spend their paychecks they are finding that they don’t stretch as far as they once did.  The cost of living continues to rise at a much faster pace than wages are rising, and this is especially true when it comes to the price of food.

Someone that I know wrote to me today and let me know that she had to shut down the food pantry that she had been running for the poor for so many years.  It isn’t that she didn’t want to help the poor anymore.  It was that she just couldn’t deal with the rising food prices any longer.  Now she is just doing the best that she can to survive herself.

Perhaps you have also noticed that food prices have gotten pretty crazy lately.  In particular, meat prices have become absolutely obscene.  For example, the average price of ground beef has risen to a new record high of over $4.09 a pound.  Over the past twelve months, that works out to a whopping 17 percent increase…

The average price for a pound of ground beef climbed to another record high–$4.096 per pound–in the United States in September, according to data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

In August, according to BLS, the average price for a pound of all types of ground beef topped $4 for the first time–hitting $4.013. In September, the average price jumped .083 cents, an increase of 2.1 percent in one month.

A year ago, in September 2013, the average price for a pound of ground beef was $3.502 per pound. Since then, it has climbed 59.4 cents–or about 17 percent in one year.

The “intellectuals” over at the Federal Reserve insist that “a little bit of inflation” is good for an economy, but the truth is that inflation slowly robs us of our buying power.

In a previous article, I shared a chart that showed how food inflation has risen dramatically since the year 2000.  For this article, I wanted to show how food inflation has risen since the 1970s.  As you can see, the rise in food prices has been absolutely relentless for more than 40 years…

Food Inflation 2014

If our paychecks were going up at the same rate or even faster that would be okay.

But they aren’t.

In fact, CNN is reporting that our paychecks have fallen back to 1995 levels…

Americans also don’t feel any better off. While more people may have jobs, they aren’t bringing home fatter paychecks. Wages and income have remained stagnant for years, making it tough for folks even though inflation is low. Median household income, which stood at $51,939 last year, is back to 1995 levels.

Consumers expect a median income boost of 1.1% over the next year, Curtin said. But that won’t keep up with their inflation expectations of 2.8%.

“American households, on average, are still struggling with their living standards slowly eroding,” he said.

This is one of the primary reasons why the middle class is disappearing in America.

The purchasing power of our dollars is continually diminishing.

And this could be just the beginning.  Right now, severe drought is affecting some of the most important agricultural areas around the globe.  Most people are aware of the nightmarish drought in California, but did you know that things in Brazil are even worse?  Brazil is one of the most important food exporters in the world, and so they definitely need our prayers.

In addition, a “black swan event” such as a worldwide explosion of the Ebola pandemic could quickly drive food prices into the stratosphere.

Just this week, we learned that food prices in the Ebola-stricken regions of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone have already risen by an average of 24 percent

Infection rates in the food-producing zones of Kenema and Kailahun in Sierra Leone, Lofa and Bong County in Liberia and GuDeckDedou in Guinea are among the highest in the region. Hundreds of farmers have died.

The three governments quarantined districts and restricted movements to contain the virus’ spread. But those measures also disrupted markets and led to food scarcity and panic buying, further pushing up prices, WFP and the Food and Agriculture Organization have said.

“Prices have risen by an average of 24 percent,” said WFP spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs, adding an assessment of major markets showed the price of basic commodities was rising in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and in neighboring Senegal.

If you have been storing up food, I think that you will be very happy with your decision in the long run.

Without a doubt, food prices are only going to be going up from here.

But the Federal Reserve continues to insist that inflation is under control.

One of the ways that they make the “official numbers” look good is by playing accounting games.  They regularly change the way that inflation is calculated in order keep everyone calm.

You don’t have to take my word for it.  Posted below is an excerpt from an article by Mike Bryan, a vice president and senior economist in the Atlanta Fed’s research department…

The Economist retells a conversation with Stephen Roach, who in the 1970s worked for the Federal Reserve under Chairman Arthur Burns. Roach remembers that when oil prices surged around 1973, Burns asked Federal Reserve Board economists to strip those prices out of the CPI “to get a less distorted measure. When food prices then rose sharply, they stripped those out too—followed by used cars, children’s toys, jewellery, housing and so on, until around half of the CPI basket was excluded because it was supposedly ‘distorted'” by forces outside the control of the central bank. The story goes on to say that, at least in part because of these actions, the Fed failed to spot the breadth of the inflationary threat of the 1970s.

I have a similar story. I remember a morning in 1991 at a meeting of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland’s board of directors. I was welcomed to the lectern with, “Now it’s time to see what Mike is going to throw out of the CPI this month.” It was an uncomfortable moment for me that had a lasting influence. It was my motivation for constructing the Cleveland Fed’s median CPI.

I am a reasonably skilled reader of a monthly CPI release. And since I approached each monthly report with a pretty clear idea of what the actual rate of inflation was, it was always pretty easy for me to look across the items in the CPI market basket and identify any offending—or “distorted”—price change. Stripping these items from the price statistic revealed the truth—and confirmed that I was right all along about the actual rate of inflation.

It is all a game to them.

It is all about getting to the “right number” to release to the public.

But anyone that goes to the grocery store knows what has been happening to food prices.

The next time you get to the checkout register and you feel tempted to ask the cashier what organ you should donate to pay for your groceries, please keep in mind that it is not the fault of the cashier.

Instead, there is one entity that you should blame.

Blame the Federal Reserve – their policies are slowly pushing the middle class into oblivion.

The Meat Crisis Is Here: Price Of Shrimp Up 61% – 7 Million Pigs Dead – Beef At All-Time High

California Drought 2014As the price of meat continues to skyrocket, will it soon be considered a “luxury item” for most American families?  This week we learned that the price of meat in the United States rose at the fastest pace in more than 10 years last month.  Leading the way is the price of shrimp.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the price of shrimp has jumped an astounding 61 percent compared to a year ago.  The price of pork is also moving upward aggressively thanks to a disease which has already killed about 10 percent of all of the pigs in the entire country.  And the endless drought in the western half of the country has caused the size of the U.S. cattle herd to shrink to a 63 year low and has pushed the price of beef to an all-time high.  This is really bad news if you like to eat meat.  The truth is that the coming “meat crisis” is already here, and it looks like it is going to get a lot worse in the months ahead.

A devastating bacterial disease called “early mortality syndrome” is crippling the shrimping industry all over Asia right now.  According to Bloomberg, this has pushed the price of shrimp up 61 percent over the past 12 months…

In March, shrimp prices jumped 61 percent from a year earlier, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The climb is mainly due to a bacterial disease known as early mortality syndrome. While the ailment has no effect on humans, it’s wreaking havoc on young shrimp farmed in Southeast Asia, shrinking supplies.

This disease has an extremely high mortality rate.  In fact, according to the article that I just quoted, it kills approximately nine out of every ten shrimp that it infects…

Cases of early mortality syndrome, which destroys the digestive systems of young shrimp, were first reported in China in 2009, said Donald Lightner, a professor of animal and comparative biomedical sciences at University of Arizona in Tucson.

The disease, which kills about 90 percent of the shrimp it infects, traveled from China to Vietnam to Malaysia and then to Thailand, he said. Cases also were reported in Mexico last year, Lightner said.

A different disease is driving up the price of pork in the United States.  It is known as the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, and in less than a year it has spread to 30 states and has killed approximately 7 million pigs.

The price of bacon is already up 13.1 percent over the past year, but this is just the beginning.

It is being projected that U.S. pork production could be down by as much as 10 percent this year, and Americans could end up paying up to 20 percent more for pork by the end of 2014.

The price of beef has also moved to unprecedented heights.  Thanks to the crippling drought that never seems to end in the western half of the nation, the size of the U.S. cattle herd has been declining for seven years in a row, and it is now the smallest that is has been since 1951.

Over the past year, the price of ground chuck beef is up 5.9 percent.  It would have been worse, but ranchers have been slaughtering lots of cattle in order to thin their herds in a desperate attempt to get through this drought.  If this drought does not end soon, the price of beef is going to go much, much higher.

As prices for shrimp, pork and beef have risen, many consumers have been eating more chicken.  But the price of chicken is rising rapidly as well.

In fact, the price of chicken breast is up 12.4 percent over the past 12 months.

Unfortunately, this could just be the very beginning of this meat crisis.  As I wrote about recently, some scientists are warning that we could potentially be facing “a century-long megadrought“.

And right now, there are no signs that the drought out west is letting up.  Just check out the map posted below.  It comes from the U.S. Drought Monitor, and it shows how the drought in California has significantly intensified since the beginning of the year…

California Drought 2014

And considering how much the rest of the nation relies on the agricultural production coming out of California, it is very alarming to see that the drought is getting even worse.

Right now, things are so bone dry in most of the state that it is easy for wildfires to get out of control.  In fact, Governor Jerry Brown has just declared a state of emergency in San Diego County because of the vicious wildfires that are raging there…

Officials ordered another round of evacuations early Thursday north of San Diego as gusty winds and near 100-degree temperatures offer little relief from at least nine fires that have consumed a 14-square mile area of Southern California.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for San Diego County, which frees up special resources and funding for the firefight.

The fires, coming earlier than normal in the wildfire season, are being fed by brush and trees left brittle by prolonged drought. They are also being whipped by a Santa Ana wind system that reverses the normal flow of wind from the Pacific Ocean and creates tinderbox fire conditions.

For the first time in its 14-year-history, the U.S. Drought Monitor, a federal website that tracks drought, designated the entire state of California as in a severe (or worse) drought.

If you do not live out west, you may have no idea how very serious this all really is.

For years, I have been warning about the potential for dust bowl conditions to return to the western half of the country.

Now it is actually starting to happen.

And we already have tens of millions of people in this country that are struggling to feed themselves.  If you doubt this, please see my previous article entitled “Epidemic Of Hunger: New Report Says 49 Million Americans Are Dealing With Food Insecurity“.

So what happens if drought, diseases and plagues continue to cause food production in this country to plummet?

Those that have studied these things tell us that there is a clear correlation between food prices and civil unrest.  For example, the following is a short excerpt from a recent Scientific American article

Since the beginning of 2014, riots have occurred in countries including Thailand and Venezuela. Although they’re different cultures on different continents, these mass protests movements may all have one commonality; increasing food prices may have contributed to their occurrence. The cost of food has been steadily increasing in both Thailand and Venezuela; last month demonstrators in Caracas took to the streets marching with empty pots to protest food shortages. According to Dr. Yaneer Bar-Yam and fellow researchers at the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI), events such as these may be anticipated by a mathematical model that examines rising food costs.

The events of 2014 aren’t without precedent; the price of food has provoked (and placated) throughout history, beginning in Imperial Rome when Augustus introduced grain subsidies. In recent years, the Middle East has been particularly affected by the cost of grain. Centuries after Egypt developed bread as we recognize it, the nation experienced a bread intifada – the country rioted for two days in January 1977 following Anwar Sadat’s decision to drastically decrease food subsidies. More recently, under the rule of Hosni Mubarak, the price of grain rose 30 percent between 2010 and 2011. Then, on January 25, 2011 a new revolution began in Egypt.

Could rapidly rising food prices cause civil unrest in the United States eventually?

It won’t happen today, and it won’t happen tomorrow, but some day it might.

Meanwhile, you might want to start carving out a significantly larger portion of the family budget for food for the foreseeable future.

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