The Price Of Ground Beef Has DOUBLED Since The Last Financial Crisis

Burger And Fries - Photo by Ewan MunroSince the depths of the last recession, the price of ground beef in the United States has doubled.  Has your paycheck doubled since then?  Even though the Federal Reserve insists that we are in a “low inflation” environment, the government’s own numbers show that the price of ground beef has been on an unprecedented run over the past six years.  In early 2009, the average price of a pound of ground beef was hovering near 2 dollars.  In February, it hit a brand new all-time record high of $4.238 per pound.  Even just 12 months ago, the price of ground beef was sitting at $3.555 per pound.  So we are talking about a huge increase.  And this hits American families where they really live.  Each year, the average American consumes approximately 270 pounds of meat.  The only nation in the world that eats more meat than we do is Luxembourg.  If the paychecks of American workers were going up fast enough to deal with this increase, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal.  But of course that is not happening.  In an article just last week, I showed that real median household income is a couple thousand dollars lower now than it was during the depths of the last recession.  The middle class is being squeezed, and we are rapidly getting to the point where burgers are going to be considered a “luxury” item.

The following chart was posted by the Economic Policy Journal on Wednesday, and it incorporates the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  When I first saw it, I was rather stunned.  I knew that the price of ground beef had become rather outrageous in my local grocery stores, but I had no idea just how much damage had been done over the past six years…

Beef Price - Economic Policy Journal

The biggest reason why the price of ground beef has been going up is the fact that the U.S. cattle herd has been shrinking.  It shrunk seven years in a row, and on January 1st, 2014 it was the smallest that it had been since 1951.

The good news is that the decline appears to have stopped, at least for the moment.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the size of the U.S. cattle herd actually increased by 1 percent last year…

The U.S. cattle herd expanded in 2014 for the first time in eight years, offering hope to consumers that beef prices could start to subside after soaring to a series of records.

The nation’s cattle supply increased 1% in the year through Jan. 1 to 89.8 million head, according to data released Friday by the U.S. Agriculture Department, reversing a steady decline fueled by prolonged drought in the southern U.S. Great Plains and industry consolidation that encouraged many ranchers to thin herds.

But an increase of 1 percent is just barely going to keep up with the official population growth rate.  If you factor in illegal immigration, we are still losing ground.

And if we have another major drought in cattle country this summer, the cattle herd is going to start shrinking again.

In addition, the price of food overall has been steadily rising for years.  Here is a chart that I shared the other day

Presentation Food Inflation

It boggles the mind that the Federal Reserve can claim that we are in a “low inflation” environment.  Anyone that goes grocery shopping feels the pain of these rising prices every time that they go to the store.

In the list that I put together yesterday, I included the following statistic…

Almost half of all Americans (47 percent) do not put a single penny out of their paychecks into savings.

One of the primary reasons why so many Americans are not saving any money is because many families simply cannot save any money.  Their paychecks are stagnant while the cost of living just keeps going up and up.

There simply are not enough “good jobs” out there anymore.  Our economy continues to bleed middle class jobs and the competition for the jobs that remain is quite intense.

Do you know what the two most common occupations in America today are?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, they are “retail sales clerk” and “cashier”.

And of course neither of those “occupations” pays even close to what is required to support a middle class family.

On average, a retail sales clerk makes $24,020 a year, and a cashier makes $20,670 a year.

Because the quality of our jobs has declined so much, there are millions of American families today in which both the mother and the father are working multiple jobs in a desperate attempt to make ends meet each month.

But don’t worry, the Federal Reserve says that we are nearly at “full employment“, and Barack Obama says that everything is going to be just fine.

Actually, the truth is that things are about to get a lot worse.  At this point, we are even getting pessimistic numbers out of the Federal Reserve.  Just this week we learned that the Fed is now projecting that economic growth for the first quarter of 2015 will be barely above zero

From almost 2.5% GDP growth expectations in February, The Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow model has now collapsed its estimates of Q1 GDP growth to just 0.2%plunging from +1.4% just 2 weeks ago. The reality of plunging capex and no decoupling is starting to rear its ugly head in the hard data and as the sun warms things up, weather will start to lose its ability to sway sentiment.

We are at a turning point.  The bubble of false stability that we have been living in is rapidly coming to an end, and when people start to realize that another great economic crisis is coming there is going to be a lot of panic.

And as far as food prices go, they are just going to keep taking a bigger chunk out of all of our wallets.

As high as prices are already, the truth is that your food dollars are never going to go farther than they do right now.

So let us hope for the best, but let us also get prepared for the worst.

If This Keeps Up, They Will Have To Start Putting Armed Guards On Food Trucks

Food Truck - Public DomainThe basic necessities in life just keep getting more expensive.  On Tuesday, Hershey announced that the price of all of their chocolate bars is going to go up by about 8 percent.  That is particularly distressing to me, because I am known to love chocolate.  But if it was just chocolate that was becoming significantly more expensive perhaps that would be okay.  Last month, it was coffee.  J.M. Smucker, one of the largest coffee producers in the United States, announced that it planned to raise coffee prices by about 9 percent.  And Starbucks has announced a bunch of price increases across the board on their coffee products.  Of course we could all survive without chocolate and coffee, but as you will see below just about every food category is becoming more expensive.  If this keeps up, could we eventually see armed guards in grocery stores and on food trucks?

On Wednesday, Robert Wenzel of the Economic Policy Journal shared some new data that has just been released by the federal government about food inflation over the past year.  Without a doubt, these numbers are quite startling…

According to the latest data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, year-over-year gains in some food products at the producer level have been truly spectacular.

Eggs for fresh use are up 33.9%.

Pork is up 28%.

Processed turkeys are up 20.4%.

Dairy products are up 10.7%.

Fresh and dry vegetables are up 8.4%.

Fresh fruits and melons are up 7.5%.

Unfortunately, paychecks for most American families are not going up at similar rates.

What that means is more pain when we make our trips to the grocery store.  Things have gotten so bad that even the mainstream media is running stories about this.  For example, this excerpt comes from a recent CNBC article

“I try to do all my local errands in one day and go up to the mall,” said Helon Rapfogel of New Jersey. “I used to go maybe twice or three times a week, and now I just go one day a week, if that much. And I try to consolidate things.”

Rapfogel said that higher costs for food and gas are hitting her overall budget.

“You sacrifice things. Like not doing an ice cream run during the week with the kids. [That could] hurt the local retailers, and we don’t want to do that … but we may have to,” she said.

At the grocery store, meat, dairy and fruit prices are all up substantially. People are even paying more for lattes at their local coffee shops. And it’s not just food—gas prices have jumped sharply on geopolitical unrest, and at the moment there’s no relief in sight.

So why is all of this happening?

Well, the truth is that a lot of factors have combined to produce something of a perfect storm.

First of all, we should talk about Federal Reserve money printing.  Since the last financial crisis, the Fed has been on an unprecedented money printing spree.  This has dramatically pushed up the prices of stocks, commodities and just about everything else.  It was naive to think that we wouldn’t eventually see substantial food inflation as well.  Just look at what “quantitative easing” has done to M1 since the last recession…

M1 Money Supply 2014

When you have more dollars chasing roughly the same amount of goods and services of course prices are going to go up.

It is just basic economics.

But according to Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, there is absolutely no reason to be concerned.  The following is a video of her telling the press her view on inflation that I shared in a previous article

But crazy Fed money printing is not the only reason why food prices are going up.

The endless drought in the western half of the country is severely hurting food production as well.  The size of the U.S. cattle herd has shrunk for seven years in a row, and it is now the smallest that it has been since 1951.  And the drought is hitting the state of California particularly hard, and considering the fact that it produces nearly half of all of our fresh produce that is more than a little bit alarming.  Yes, we are more technologically advanced that we used to be, but we are not advanced enough to overcome an epic multi-year drought in half the nation.

In addition, we are also dealing with the worst pork virus to ever hit the United States right now.  Porcine epidemic diarrhea has already wiped out about 10 percent of the pig population in the U.S., and approximately 100,000 more are dying each week.  As you saw above, pork prices are already up 28 percent over the past 12 months, and if a solution is not found to this virus the price increases are going to get much worse.

Down in Florida, citrus growers are facing a horrific outbreak of citrus greening disease.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that orange production in the U.S. will be down 18 percent compared to last year, and it is expected that this will be the worst crop in close to 30 years.

Another plague known as the TR4 fungus has hit banana production.  According to CNBC, this horrible fungus may eventually completely wipe out the variety of bananas that we eat today…

Banana lovers take note: The world’s supply of the fruit is under attack from a fungus strain that could wipe out the popular variety that Americans eat.

“It’s a very serious situation,” said Randy Ploetz, a professor of plant pathology at the University of Florida who in 1989 originally discovered a strain of Panama disease, called TR4, that may be growing into a serious threat to U.S. supplies of the fruit and Latin American producers.

“There’s nothing at this point that really keeps the fungus from spreading,” he said in an interview with CNBC.

While there are nearly 1,000 varieties of bananas, the most popular is the Cavendish, which accounts for 45 percent of the fruit’s global crop—and the one Americans mostly find in their supermarkets.

For decades, Americans have been able to go to the grocery stores and fill up their carts with massive amounts of very inexpensive food.

But just because it has been that way for so many years does not mean that it will be that way in the future.

Right now, there are 49 million Americans that are dealing with food insecurity, and that number will only get worse as food prices go even higher.

It is getting to the point where it is not too hard to imagine desperate people holding up food trucks and robbing grocery stores in order to feed themselves and their families.

Let us hope that we don’t see anything like that any time soon, but we are moving in that direction.

Just a few years ago, the notion that we could ever see armed guards on food trucks or in grocery stores in the United States was absolutely unthinkable.

But now, it is not so crazy.

So what do you think?  Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…