Survey: July 4 picnic costs about $60

2014-07-04T00:30:00Z 2014-07-07T10:03:29Z Survey: July 4 picnic costs about $60By TOM LUTEY tlutey@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Montanans still a get a bang for their buck when it comes to cost of the Independence Day meal, according to shopping surveys.

Shoppers for Montana Farm Bureau Federation put together a holiday barbecue meal for 10 people for less than $60. The spread includes hot dogs, hamburgers, pork spareribs, canned baked beans, potato salad, watermelon and lemonade. Nationally, the collective cost for those items had increased 5 percent from a year earlier.

“Most of our Montana picnic foods were less where I shopped than the national average,” said Janet Krob, who priced foods for Montana. “Watermelon, hot dogs, spareribs, and American cheese were all less.”

Meat prices drove up the meal’s costs. A 60-year-low in the number of cattle on U.S. ranches, combined with strong foreign demand for American beef has pushed up domestic prices for several years, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture research. Lean ground beef averaged $3.86 a pound nationally, up 53 cents from the same period a year ago. Sirloin steak selling for an average $6.11 a pound nationally was up $1.07 compared to the end of June 2013. Pork spareribs were up a modest $11 cents from the same period a year ago.

Rabo AgriFinance estimates that nationally, Fourth of July picnics will cost more than they ever have. Using price information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, Rabobank puts the price of a 10-person holiday meal at $66.82. The difference between the Rabobank study and the Farm Bureau survey? Chicken, ice cream and beer.

Spread over five years, the price of hamburger has increased 71 percent. Chicken prices over the same time haven’t budged much, up 3 percent.

“We think there will be more pluck than chuck this year as some consumers lean to chicken sandwiches over burgers,” said Bill Crodingley, a Rabobank food and agribusiness researcher.

Meat accounted for a quarter of the barbecue meal's cost. An even bigger share of the holiday meal expense estimated by Crodingley is beer. Beer prices are up 10 percent from June 2013.

Tomatoes were the other picnic food to see a significant price jump. Drought in Mexico has affected tomato supply and driven up the price 12 percent.

One item in Rabobank’s shopping cart actually decreased in price over the last several years. Bread prices were the same as a year ago and down 1 percent over five years.

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