If you’ve wondered why food prices go up every time you go to the grocery store, you’re not alone. Between labor shortages, supply issues and weather- and pandemic-related slowdowns, it’s getting harder for many Americans to keep food on the table.
To talk about ongoing challenges in the U.S. food supply — and its many causes — WTOP’s Sandy Kozel and Chris Cruise spoke to Laura Riley, who writes about the business of food for The Washington Post.
Riley said current food inflation can’t be reduced to a single cause.
“If you’re talking about the foods in the center of the grocery store, that kind of shelf to table, a lot of those foods contain dozens of ingredients sourced from around the globe,” she said.
“And we’re still seeing those hiccups in transportation, because of things like shipping container prices. So it’s those things coupled with packaging price increases across the board. So it’s kind of coming from all different directions.”
Riley cited pandemic-related labor shortages in food processing plants as a reason some items are increasing in price, while others are going down.
“You’ll find bone-in, skin-on chicken breast right now, sometimes significantly cheaper or more abundant than boneless, skinless and that’s just because of that labor problem.”
Even shipping supply shortages, and the pandemic rise in e-commerce, are having their effect on your grocery bill.
“The Texas freeze last winter saw the closing of a lot of plastics companies, and that is still causing a shortage there,” Riley said. “And then corrugated cardboard is really expensive right now because of the real rise in e-commerce — everybody’s getting things shipped to their homes — that’s increasing the call for cardboard.”
Even children’s snacks aren’t immune from the current food inflation. NBC Washington reports that, as the popular kids snack Lunchables is seeing a double-digit increase in demand since the pandemic began, supply issues with its parent company, Kraft Heinz, is causing shortages for parents as school resumes.
To hear the full conversation with Laura Riley, listen here: