If you pay any attention to the price of things in the store, it always seems that food goes up faster than most things. Granted, it’s not the only thing that goes up in price; and some things like energy costs, seem to go up even faster. Nevertheless, amongst the things that we need every day, food prices going up as quickly as they have been is definitely concerning.
This problem was made even worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, with farmers having to kill off animals and processing plants having to throw out good food, just because their production was packaged for use in restaurants and couldn’t be sold at retail. Although it has been largely reduced, we are still feeling some shockwaves from those times. Adding to that were the high number of food processing plants that were destroyed by fire in 2022.
Looking at these things, it is natural to wonder if those fires were intentional. While a number of “fact checkers” have debunked that speculation, the only people who trust those fact checkers anymore are those who have already drunk the cool-aid.
Regardless of whether those fact checkers are right or not, we are all being faced with the reality of products becoming scarce or out and out missing from our grocery store shelves. In cases where the products don’t outright disappear from the shelves, prices tend to rise, causing us all to feel the pinch. Nobody is publishing actual inflation figures for food, which can be trusted, but I’m sure it is higher than the 5.8% the government is claiming, probably much closer to 12 or 14%.
As preppers, this should have less impact on us, than it does on others. However, for that to be true, we need to have enough of a stockpile of the right items, so that we don’t have to buy it. We also need to be willing to use the items we have, rather than just hanging on to them. That’s a tricky balance to hold, as none of us truly know what the future will hold.
The big question is trying to figure out what foods are going to see outrageous price increases, so that we can beat the rush and stock up. Here are a few thoughts about what we can expect to see rise in prices over the next year.
Meat, Especially Beef
A number of things are contributing to this, including the ever-increasing cost of raising the cattle. The cost of shipping also plays a pivotal role in the overall price hike.
The temporary reduction in prices we’re seeing at the gas pump is there just for the elections and as soon as those are over, prices will rise again, causing everything else to rise.
In addition to the raising and processing costs for beef, it seems that those who support AOC’s “Green New Deal” have decided that cow farts are a major cause of greenhouse gases.
This has led to several attempts to penalize the cattle industry, as well as consumers that buy beef. I can’t prove that these efforts are having an actual impact on beef prices, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they are in some hidden way.
One of the hardest hit areas of farming, during the pandemic, was the poultry industry.
While chickens grow rapidly, making it possible to rebuild flocks fairly quickly, the huge numbers of chickens which were euthanized during COVID has made rebuilding those flocks challenging.
With beef prices rising, more people are turning to poultry, especially chicken, as their main protein source.
Chicken has always been popular, around the world; but the added demand is driving prices up, following the laws of supply and demand. We can expect chicken prices to continue increasing disproportionally as people look for an alternative to beef.
Seafood, especially shellfish of all types, has always been expensive. But it looks like the prices we only go up from now on.
While it might seem that the vastness of the oceans would give us a nearly unlimited supply of these tasty creatures, the fact is that only a very small part of the world’s oceans can be effectively harvested.
While I wouldn’t raise the alarm that they are being overharvested just yet, the availability is affecting prices.
This will probably balance out before too long; but in the meantime, the cost of seafood seems to be rising more rapidly than it should. At the same time, the size of shrimp, lobsters, crabs and other shellfish are going down, so we’re getting less for our money.
Eventually, most of these shellfish will probably be farmed, rather than harvested from nature. When that happens, the price will drop considerably, but the quality will probably drop as well.
We’re approaching the two-year mile marker on the war in Ukraine and neither side seems to be giving up. The Ukrainians are holding on tenaciously, which I applaud them for. It’s their land and they should fight for it.
On the other hand, Putin doesn’t seem to be giving up and going home, probably for domestic political reasons. He may not be able to survive a loss, politically speaking.
Ukraine has become one of the world’s major wheat suppliers; something that the war has largely interrupted. This has created shortages worldwide, driving prices for wheat up.
Here at home, we haven’t yet felt the crunch from this particular shortage, because we grow all our own wheat. But as world supplies are becoming more scarce, more and more of our wheat is being shipped overseas, which will drive domestic prices up.
The main ingredient in breakfast cereal is wheat flour, even breakfast cereals which use other grains, such as Cheerios. That means we can expect the price for breakfast cereals to rise, thanks to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
It probably won’t come back down either, even after the war is over and world supplies stabilize once again. We might see prices stabilize, but they won’t come back down again.
Just like breakfast cereal, baked goods can be expected to go up and for the same reasons.
Bakeries of all types, from the big commercial operations to local mom and pop shops are dealing with rising material costs. That, in turn, will drive the prices of their products up.
A lot of labor goes into baked goods, especially in smaller bakeries, including those in supermarkets.
As an increasing number of state and local governments are embracing higher minimum wage standards, labor costs for these bakeries will rise faster than the cost of their ingredients.
Baked goods offer us one area in which we can combat higher food costs, as most can be made at home.
Actually, what can be made at home is generally healthier and better tasting than what we buy in the store, as it will not have chemicals in it, replacing actual ingredients.
Home baked goods are more likely to be eaten by mold, as they don’t contain preservatives. So, we need to learn how to manage our production, matching it with our family’s consumption.
Milk is actually an international commodity, just like wheat.
Lower exports of milk, driven by lower international demand, are causing more domestic milk production to be kept stateside.
That milk has to meet higher standards, driving up overall costs for the industry.
As milk is a highly perishable item, it can’t be saved easily for consumption at a later date.
Farmers must sell their production daily and stores need to move that product before it nears its expiration date.
Butter and Margarine
The higher cost of milk is having a detrimental impact on the overall cost of butter, leading to a noticeable increase.
That higher price allows producers of margarine to increase their prices, despite the absence of any factors directly influencing an upward trajectory in their production costs.
It’s all about what the market will bear, and these companies are taking advantage of the opportunity that higher butter costs provides for them.
Higher milk costs are also affecting the cost of cheese, as milk is the major ingredient in making cheese.
About 1.25 gallons or 10 pounds of milk are required to make each pound of cheese.
That concentrates any increase in the cost of milk, multiplying it at what may seem like a disproportionate rate in the cost of cheese.
In reality, it’s an increase in material costs.
The price of cheese is a bit high to start with, just because it takes so long to make.
While commercial cheese manufacturing is largely automated, the process still takes up time, space, and other resources.
Add a higher cost for the main ingredient and the price quickly starts rising.
Fruits & Vegetables
Farmers have always been subject to the vagaries of the weather. While irrigation makes a huge difference, helping keep crops from being lost, only about 15% of all US farmland is irrigated.
The rest is dependent on natural rainfall. When the weather doesn’t cooperate, crops suffer.
We have been experiencing an extensive period of drought, through large parts of the United States. This is not expected to be alleviated anytime soon.
Whether that is due to climate change or just normal, cyclical changes in weather patterns is hard to tell and the information available thoroughly muddies the water, as people are quick to blame climate change.
Either way, we can be assured that the prices of fruits and vegetables will keep going up.
Here in the United States, about 30% of all fruits and vegetables grown are wasted, largely due to produce that has nothing wrong with it, other than not being attractive.
The agricultural industry has spent billions of dollars in research, trying to make more attractive produce. That’s a lot of where GMOs come from. In the process though, they have increased the incidence of less attractive produce going to waste.
This is perhaps one of the easiest places for us to combat these rising prices, buying our produce from farmers’ markets, roadside stands and directly from the farmer.
While it may not look just like the produce in the grocery stores, it will generally be fresher and healthier for us to eat.
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