Why Your Grocery Bill Is Higher Than Normal

Wednesday, October 20th 2021, 4:50 pm
By: Erika Lee


Food costs are continuing to rise, and it's not making things easier for families and businesses.

Rodney Holcomb, a food economist at Oklahoma State University, said there are many reasons for this trend ranging from labor shortages to supply chain problems.

“There are some issues bringing one product to another,” Holcomb said. “And it’s not so much about the availability of the agricultural commodities as much as it is the availability to process, package and transport to where we need to find them and buy them.”

The index for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs went up by 10.5% from September 2020 to now.

Certain industries have a limited availability because it might cost them more to be on the payroll due to the labor shortages. The meat industry is one of them.

“In meat processing and packaging, it’s very capital intensive,” Holcomb said. “You need a lot of people that handle the meat and packaging, and because of COVID, we saw many plants working at half capacity.”

Another reason for rising prices is the shift of people eating at home instead of eating at restaurants as they have started reopening.

“Next thing you know, we’re at limited supplies but still have the same amount of people eating at the restaurant if not more,” Holcomb said. “That’s when you start seeing the price increase.”

By the end of the year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said food-at-home prices will have increased between 2.5 and 3.5% and food away-from-home prices -- between 3.5 and 4.5%.

They're both expected to increase more in 2022.

Holcomb's advice is to be patient, understanding and to acknowledge that people from all sides are struggling.

“If the prices are higher, just understand that it’s not because the restauranteur is trying to rip every last dollar out of your wallet,” Holcomb said. “They’re just trying to cover their cost of production and operation.”