Will inflation stay on the menu this holiday season?

Published: Nov. 25, 2021 at 10:26 AM EST
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - According to the U.S. Labor Department, inflation is at a 30-year high this Thanksgiving, and it’s likely to remain on the menu throughout the holiday season.

“Whether it’s heating your home, cooking your food, buying the turkey,” said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) “Everything has gone up in price.”

While Republicans, like Thune, tend to blame the administration for excess spending, Heather Boushey with the White House National Economic Council says President Joe Biden is working to solve supply chain issues.

“There’s a series of steps the president has taken to make sure that we clear out America supply chains, that will make it easier for truckers to be able to get things from here to there,” said Boushey. “At the same time, the president has invested in a robust agenda around competition issues.”

Industry experts say four large meatpackers -- JBS SA, Cargill Meat Solutions, National Beef Packing Co., and Tyson Foods -- still control most of the meat market. Lawmakers and small producers claim the saturation undercuts producers while inflating prices at the grocery store.

Congress has looked extensively into the issue this year by holding hearings and drafting legislation.

It’s not just the price of turkey that has consumers crying “fowl” though. Federal officials say they’re looking to lower the cost of beef as the December holidays roll in.

Tanner Beymer with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association is throwing his support behind a bill to create a cattle contract library, which would require meatpackers to report their marketing agreements to the USDA.

“A cattle contract library is a database that contains a bunch of information related to the types of contracts that are offered by packers to cattle producers for the purchase of fed cattle,” said Beymer. “[Producers] actually can go in and compare their marketing arrangements and some other terms of their agreements. Then, if there are maybe things they didn’t think about, they have the opportunity to go and renegotiate that with their buyers.”

A similar library already exists for the pork industry.

Beymer warns, though, this isn’t a silver bullet solution.

“It needs to be combined with increasing beef processing capacity; it needs to be combined with improving price discovery in our marketplace, and it needs to be combined with proper oversight of our market,” said Beymer.

As comprehensive industry reform is unlikely to come before the new year, you might want to plan for another costly holiday feast next month, too.

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