From Farm to Table: Why Food Costs So Damn Much

Lemons in a grocery store.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – MARCH 27: Lemons priced at $.99 each are displayed at Cal-Mart Grocery on March 27, 2014 in San Francisco, California. Food prices are on the rise and expected to keep edging up throughout the year as the drought and other factors have impacted the availability and cost of groceries like coffee, milk, limes and pork. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A new report issued by the Labor Department indicates that Americans should be prepared for food prices to remain relatively high throughout the holiday season. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index, a key measure of inflation and deflation, indicated a 0.3 percent rise in September, after increasing 0.2 percent in August.

Meats, particularly beef, are among the food items which saw the steepest rise in price, with beef and veal rising 16.7 percent since January of 2014. That news may well be disheartening for many Americans, given that roast beef and turkey often feature prominently on holiday tables. Overall, the USDA report indicates, food prices have increased fairly steadily throughout the past decade, and are only just beginning to stabilize; all in all, the food index has risen about 3 percent since 2008.

Dairy products were another category that saw an unusual increase in price compared with other categories; spending on dairy products, the report indicates, rose 4.9 percent from 2013, and .5 percent from August to September, and the ERS expects prices to continue to rise throughout the remainder of 2014 and throughout 2015. The only staple food items which saw slightly declining prices were cereals and bakery products, which descended a mere 0.1 percent.

With food prices continuing to a be a source of stress for Americans, many of whom are still struggling amidst a painfully slow-to-recover economic climate, it’s important to understand where the price increases are coming from, and what they mean for the average American consumer. We break down the pressures affecting your food prices, starting at the source, all the way to your table.