There is no single culprit. The nation’s food supply has been battered by a knotted supply chain, high transportation expenses, labor shortages, trade policies and bad weather. Inflation is at play, too. In September, the Consumer Price Index for food was up 4.6% from a year ago. Prices for meat, poultry, fish and eggs jumped drastically, by 10.5%.
For many cooks, the biggest expense will be the turkey. By the end of the year, market analysts say, prices per pound will likely surpass the record Department of Agriculture benchmark price for turkeys — $1.36, set in 2015.
Packaged dinner rolls will be pricier because the cost of almost all of the ingredients that commercial bakers use has gone up. Canned cranberry sauce will cost more because domestic steel plants have yet to catch up after pandemic shutdowns, and China is limiting steel production to reduce carbon emissions. As a result, steel prices have remained more than 200% higher than they were before the pandemic.
The heftier price tag on that turkey-friendly California pinot noir reflects a 25% surge in energy costs, expensive delays related to labor shortages and the cost of glass bottles stuck on cargo ships coming from China. The average end-to-end shipping time from China to the United States was 73 days in September, up from 40 days two years earlier, said Katheryn Russ, a professor of economics at the University of California at Davis. And shipping expenses, she said, have tripled.
“All of these dynamics are not theoretical,” Russ said. “We can’t lose sight of how these broader issues hit home.”