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Meat Inflation Soars as Pork Shortage and U.S. Grilling Collide

An increase in backyard barbecuing collided with a shortage of hogs as U.S. consumer prices for pork jumped in June by the most in 25 years.

Pork prices climbed 3.8% from a month earlier while beef gained 4%, according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report on Tuesday. The elevated meat prices contributed to the biggest overall surge in U.S. consumer prices since 2008.

Food inflation has been on the rise since the coronavirus upended supply chains, with sick workers shutting down meat plants while consumers pivoted away from restaurants to prepare more food at home. The American hog herd hasn’t recovered from culling during the onset of the pandemic. Meanwhile, droughts

globally have sent animal-feed prices soaring, and labor shortages at slaughterhouses have also pushed up prices for pork, beef and chicken.

The CPI category rose to a 25-year high in June

Tighter meat supplies meant retailers were forced to pay higher prices in the wholesale market, and they then passed on those costs to consumers. But with record-high temperatures baking parts of the U.S., some consumers may soon balk at outdoor grilling and opt for restaurants instead, and grocers may be more willing to reduce prices to hang onto demand.

“Fresh pork prices have started to come down,” Altin Kalo, an analyst at Steiner Consulting Group in Manchester, New Hampshire, said by phone. “Inflation at food service is stickier and probably will persist going forward,” Kalo said of the category that encompasses food prepared outside of homes.