It was just an ordinary press release, issued by one of the most sophisticated banking businesses in the world.
The headline was a shocker:
The 2015 Rabobank BBQ Index Reviews Commodities Fueling U.S. BBQ Prices.
With fear and trepidation, I began to read the story. A few lines in, though, I wanted to know whose hands to slap for the misleading headline. It wasn't about barbecue, it was about summertime grilling, that all-American, hot weather weekend tradition of burning meat outdoors. Barbecuing is a culinary art mastered by few; cooking 'low and slow,' not hot and fast. Rabobank should know the difference.
But, coming just before the Fourth, it did contain several nuggets that should annoy the outdoor beer and beef crowd. Folks might have to buy a cheaper six-pack to keep the same quality of beef on the grill. Cost adjustments will have to be made somewhere, maybe ditch the chips or forget a few veggies.
Ross Colbert, Head of Food and Agribusiness Research at Rabobank, warned us all. He said popular commodities like beef, tomatoes and lettuce - the traditional fixings of the traditional burger - "have risen in price since 2014 from 6.2 to 7.3 percent. This is the second year in a row that we've seen substantial price increases for retail ground beef, the center of many American barbecues."
According to their Index, the average cost for feeding 10 people at a barbeque in 2004 was just $51.90. This year "expect to pay $68.22 before the first fireworks crackle."
The price of a pound of ground beef jumped 7% from last year's record amounts. During the past half decade, it has increased 80%, which Rabobank blamed a growing international demand for beef and "an inability for the market to keep up with the supply necessary for serving that demand."
Their almost criminal suggestion for saving a few bucks this Saturday? Replace that burger with chicken. The price dropped by about 2%, saving about $2.00. Expect that sacrifice to reduce your payout to $66.22. Better to keep the beef and buy cheaper beer, I say.
Unless you’re a fan of craft beers, some of which cost as much as a really good wine, the cost of your average brew will remain about the same. That slice of cheese for your burger won't change much, either. Your buns will be costlier, due to wheat supply issues. Chip prices are also on the rise, after coming down in price in 2014.
The California drought helped create a significant boost in the cost of your veggies. Compared to last year, tomatoes are up by 6.8%, lettuce is up by 6.2%, and pickles by 3.6%. Fortunately, feeding the few lonely vegetarians and vegans in your family will still be the cheapest part of the weekend, though.
For the record, here's what Rabobank thinks the average adult will eat during that Fourth of July picnic. No data supplied for mustard, ketchup, relish and other condiments.
- Chips – 5 handfuls
- Pickle – 1 pickle
- Soda – 1 can of soda
- Tomatoes –2 slices
- Cheese – 2-3 slices
- Bread –2 buns
- Beef – 1 quarter pound burger
- Chicken – 1 chicken sandwich
- Ice Cream – 1-2 bowls per person
- Lettuce – 1-2 leaves per person
- Beer – two 12 oz cans per person
After feeding all that to his guests, a good host will set out a bowl of Alka Seltzer, Tums and Prilosec by the front door.