Preparing a casual meal of summer picnic staples will cost you $6 per person, according to the American Farm Bureau's latest marketbasket survey, released Monday.
AFBF arrived at the tally by factoring in the cost of hot dogs and buns, cheeseburgers and buns, pork spare ribs, deli potato salad, baked beans, corn chips, lemonade, chocolate milk, watermelon and ketchup and mustard. Prices were reported by 60 AFBF volunteer shoppers in 22 states.
Though the AFBF did not complete a similar report last year, the $6 price tag is likely up a bit due to higher food prices. The USDA estimates beef prices alone are 5-6% higher than this time in 2012.
"Although retail food prices have increased modestly over the past year or so, most Americans should be able to find summer picnic foods at close to the average prices found by our volunteer shoppers," said John Anderson, deputy chief economist at AFBF.
The average cost for a picnic for 10 is $57.20, the survey found. A good portion of the cost – and a good portion of a cookout – centers on meat.
With demand for meat cuts and products that lend themselves to grilling typically peaking during the prime summer months, AFBF's Anderson says that doesn't necessarily translate into higher costs.
"You’ve got to balance the strong summer demand side with supply," Anderson explained. "For a lot of products, summer is also a fairly high supply period and that offsets that."
But, he explained, retailers realize that people like to cook out in the summer and so they do quite a bit of featuring on meat items in the summer.
"So even though demand is strong, retailers compete very aggressively for that business and that can help keep a lid on prices," Anderson said.
As the agriculture community learned last summer, however, weather conditions may also be reflected in food prices. Anderson explains the hamburger factored into the picnic cost is an example.
The $3.93 per pound of ground round historically would be a fairly high price, Anderson noted, "and that reflects the fact that beef supplies are relatively tight now because we’ve had actually a couple of years of major drought in the cattle-producing parts of the country."
Pork, however, according to the USDA, is expected to decline in price – especially over the July 4th holiday.
"Pork may be an attractive option for our retailers to feature," says USDA livestock analyst Shayle Shagam. He anticipates retail costs will be coming down on pork prices, averaging in the high $3.30 range. That's about 8-10 cents lower than what pork cost last summer.