July 4 Barbecue Costs Climb to Record: Chart of the Day

Rising prices for beef, ice cream and lettuce mean Americans will spend the most ever for Fourth of July barbecues this year.

The CHART OF THE DAY shows an index tracking U.S. retail prices for seven foods commonly consumed while grilling climbed 5.1 percent in May from a year earlier to the highest ever for the month, the latest data from Bureau of Labor Statistics show.

Independence Day is the most popular time of the year for Americans to cook outdoors, according to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association. The holiday falls on a Friday this year, increasing chances that revelers will keep celebrating into the weekend. Prices for ground beef are 16 percent higher than a year earlier, while ice cream climbed 1.7 percent and tomatoes soared 12 percent, government data show.

Consumers “are becoming adjusted to these price levels,” said Don Close, a vice president for animal protein at Rabobank Food and Agriculture Research and Advisory in St. Louis. “I would expect the overall grilling demand to be very good. The natural long weekend will be a benefit.”

The Bloomberg-compiled barbecue index tracks ground beef, white bread, American cheese, iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, ice cream and potato chips. Ground-beef prices are at a record amid a shrinking U.S. cattle herd. Drought in California has boosted produce costs.

“Do we expect there to be some trade-offs and some adjustments made on the behalf of some consumers? No doubt that’s going to happen,” Close said. “Overall, I think they’re ready to take the plunge and say, ‘Let’s go enjoy the holiday.’”

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