MONEY Food & Drink

The Skyrocketing Cost of Your July 4th Barbecue

Dollar sign drawn out of sparklers
fStop—Alamy

Drought and disease are driving high prices on hamburgers, lemonade, and fruit salad.

If you’re the person preparing the July 4th barbecue, prepare yourself for sticker shock at the grocery store. Prices for grocery store food items are up 2.7% compared to last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest Food Price Outlook. But prices are even higher on some Fourth of July favorites—like beef, up more than 10% over last year.

What’s going on? California, an agricultural heavyweight, is facing one of the most severe droughts on record. Meanwhile, disease is attacking some popular produce. Here’s what that could mean for your holiday meal.

Hamburgers. Grocery stores are pricing most retail beef at record-high prices, up 10.7% compared to last year. That’s because over the past few years, droughts have shrunk cattle herds to their lowest sizes since 1951. This year’s drought conditions in Texas and Oklahoma haven’t helped matters.

Barbecued pork chops. The other white meat isn’t cheap either. Faced with the soaring cost of beef, some customers have switched to pork, driving prices up 12.2% since last year. Also, piglets are dying from porcine epidemic diarrhea virus. The good news? The hogs are fatter than they were last year, so the USDA predicts that prices might stabilize.

Hot dogs and deli sandwiches. Other meats cost 3.3% more than last year. Again, that’s probably because consumers are switching from more expensive choices like beef and pork. What it means for you: Alternatives are pricier than they were last year, but they may still be the best deal on meat.

Lemonade. Planning to make some fresh-squeezed lemonade? You might want to think again. Citrus prices are up a whopping 22.5% this year, thanks to a rough winter freeze in California and a deadly citrus disease outbreak in Florida. Switch to a mix and save a bundle–prices for sugars and sweets have fallen 1.5%.

Fruit salad. As of now, fresh fruit prices have risen 7.3% (mostly due to high citrus prices). But that might change by your Labor Day picnic. The USDA predicts fresh fruit prices will jump 5% to 6% later this year, so enjoy your fruit salad while it lasts.

Looking to trim your meat budget this barbecue season? Try these five tips.

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