Cost of July 4 cookout slightly lower this year

Dairy, pork and chicken prices decrease, but veggie and beef costs increase.

Independence Day barbeques this year cost an extra $1 for an average 10-person cookout (Infographic), according to the second annual Rabobank BBQ Index.

The Rabobank BBQ Index uses data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to check prices and track changes for everything from burgers to ice cream.

Since 2004, when the average cost for feeding 10 people at a barbeque was just $51.90, the price has steadily increased. For 2015, Rabobank said Fourth of July hosts were expected to pay $68.22.

"Consumers will get some relief from dairy products this Fourth of July, with both the cost of cheese and ice cream coming in 2.2% and 4.4% lower than in 2014, respectively," said Ross Colbert, head of food and agribusiness research at Rabobank. "Unfortunately for barbeque hosts, those types of discounts do not apply to other popular commodities like beef, tomatoes and lettuce, all of which have risen in price since 2014 from 6.2% to 7.3%."

Colbert added that this is the second year in a row that retail ground beef prices have substantially increased.

For the 2015 cookout, Rabobank reported the following breakdown:

* Meat. Once again, beef was the main driver of barbeque cost increases, as prices rose another 7% from last year's record amounts, Rabobank said. For the past five years, that marks an increase of about 80% due to growing international beef demand and the market's inability to keep up with the supply necessary to serve that demand.

* Dairy. After jumping 15% in cost between 2009 and 2014, retail cheese and ice cream prices are finally cooling off for consumers, Rabobank said, adding that international dairy commodity prices in general have eased in 2015 due to an oversupply in the global market.

* Beverages. Some hosts saved some cash by making this year's party "bring your own bottle," Rabobank said.

"While only experiencing a small cost increase since 2014 (0.4%), more expensive 'craft' beers continue to push domestic and premium prices upward. In fact, beer costs account for 28% of the total barbecue expenses. Soda prices are also slowly on the rise, but only by 0.9% since last year," the bank noted.

* Bread/snacks. While bread prices were flat in 2014, they bumped up by about 4.5% this year due to wheat supply issues. Prices for chips are also on the rise this year after declining in 2014, Rabobank noted.

* Vegetables. The drought in California may have played a role in the higher prices this year for tomatoes (up 6.8% from 2014) and lettuce (up 6.2% from 2014), Rabobank suggested.

"Pickles also rose in cost by 3.6% this year, bringing the bill to about $3.64 for barbeques. Even with these increases, vegetables remain the lowest percentage of overall barbeque costs."

Similarly, an informal American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) survey also found a lower total cookout cost after 88 AFBF members (volunteer shoppers) in 30 states checked retail prices at their local grocery stores.

The AFBF survey results showed that the average cost for a summer cookout for 10 people was $55.84, about a 3% decrease compared to a year ago.

"Based on our survey, food prices overall appear to be fairly stable," AFBF deputy chief economist John Anderson said. "Prices for beef have continued to increase this year, but prices for other meats are generally declining. Dairy product prices are also quite a bit lower."

Fuel and other energy prices have also generally been lower so far this year compared to last year, which Anderson said helps keep prices down on the more processed items in the picnic basket.

"As a nation, we continue to enjoy a consistent, high-quality supply of meats and poultry at prices that are remarkably affordable for most consumers," he said.

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