Though overall food prices have increased 10.9% from July 2021 to July 2022, prices for uncooked beef steaks have decreased 1.2% over the same period, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while prices consumers are paying for sirloin steaks and round steaks have fallen 1.4% and 2.6%, respectively.
Although the downward movement may appear to be positive news for American households, other categories of meat and poultry have trended upward. A whole chicken is 3% more expensive, chicken breast is 0.9% more expensive, and pork chops are 2.6% more expensive. Prices for grade A eggs have likewise risen 8.5%.
“The demand for chicken is extremely strong,” Tyson CEO Donnie King told analysts earlier this month, noting that average sale prices for beef are falling as customers select cheaper cuts.
Indeed, families have been adjusting consumption habits as inflation continues to outpace wage increases. Walmart CEO Doug McMillon noted that the grocery giant is finding more consumers among wealthier families struggling to contend with higher prices.
“Right around the middle of the first quarter is when we saw food inflation reach a level where behavior started to change,” McMillon explained to CNBC. “It got to a level where people making less than $50,000 household income started behaving differently, and then to the $75,000 level and then to the $100,000 level.”
In a survey conducted by BMO and Ipsos earlier this summer, 42% of respondents indicated that they “are changing how they shop for groceries” by choosing cheaper items, avoiding brand names, or buying only essential items. Meanwhile, 31% are driving less to offset elevated gas prices, 23% are trimming vacation budgets, and 22% are canceling subscription services.
President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act earlier this month in a purported effort to slash prices for consumers. Yet administration officials have pointed to renewable energy tax credits as a primary mechanism through which Americans can experience relief from higher prices.
“If you are low income, you can get your home entirely weatherized through the expansion from the bipartisan infrastructure laws,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said this weekend on Fox News. “If you are moderate income, today you can get 30% off the price of solar panels. Those solar panels can be financed, so you don’t have to have the big outlay at the front … If you don’t qualify for the weatherization program, you will be able to, starting next year, get rebates on the appliances and equipment that will help you reduce your monthly energy bill by up to 30%. That is all about reducing costs for people.”
Critics noted, however, that a 30% tax credit would leave struggling homeowners liable for 70% of an expense that they are not presently able to afford. Granholm has nevertheless said that the “only way out” of “boom-and-bust cycles” in energy prices is greater adoption of renewable sources.
“The real truth is that as long as our nation remains overly reliant on oil and fossil fuels, we will feel these price shocks again,” Granholm asserted earlier this summer. “This is not going to be the last time. The next time there’s a war, the next time there’s a pandemic or another hurricane, these extreme weather events we are experiencing — they will impact the access that we have to fossil fuels.”