The latest consumer price and spending data from the USDA’s Economic Research Service and the Bureau of Labor Statistics show a continuation of food-price trends, with beef prices continuing upward ahead of other animal-based foods. One notable piece of information from the reports, however, illustrates how the U.S. food-service sector has fared as the economy improves.
According to monthly retail sales data, during January 2015, consumer spending on food away from home, at $67.4 billion, for the first time outpaced consumer spending on food to be consumed at home, listed at $64.1 billion. This resulted from an increase of 8.5 percent in food-away-from-home spending from January 2014 to January 2015. Spending on food for at-home consumption increased just 3.7 percent during the same period.
During the recession years beginning in 2007, consumer spending in restaurants dropped considerably relative to spending for food at home. But as the economy and consumer confidence recovered, restaurant spending rebounded and the spread between food-at-home and food-away-from-home spending narrowed. Lower gasoline prices likely contributed to the surge in restaurant spending during January, as smaller fuel bills freed up consumer dollars for spending elsewhere.
Overall food-price inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) was moderate over the past year, showing an increase of 3.1 percent for food away from home and 3.3 percent for food at home between January 2014 and January 2015.
Meat, dairy and poultry prices generally increased more than those for other foods over the past year, particularly in the case of beef. The CPI for beef and veal increased by 19 percent from January 2014 through January 2015. This year, ERS predicts beef and veal prices will increase another 5.0 to 6.0 percent.
Pork prices in January fell by 0.1 percent from the previous month, but remained 7.4 percent higher than a year earlier. For 2015, ERS expects pork prices to increase by 2.5 to 2.5 percent.
The prices for dairy products decreased 0.9 percent from December to January and are 3.8 percent above January 2014 prices. ERS predicts dairy prices to increase 2.0 to 3.0 percent in 2015.
Poultry prices have been more stable than those for competing meats. Prices for poultry rose 0.7 percent from December to January and are 2 percent higher year-over year. Partly due to an increase in production, retail poultry price inflation has remained below the 20-year historical average of 2.6 percent. For 2015, ERS forecasts poultry prices to increase 2.5 to 3.5 percent.
Read more a the USDA/ERS Consumer Price Index website.