US Grocery Prices See the Biggest Jump in Nearly 50 Years

The culprit: rising costs for meat and eggs during the pandemic

aisles of food
Meat, poultry and eggs led the price bump in April. Unsplash
Headshot of Diana Pearl

In April, the prices Americans were paying for their groceries spiked by the highest percentage seen in nearly 50 years.

Today, the Labor Department reported that prices for groceries—also referred to as the “food at home” index—across the United States jumped by 2.6% in April, the highest single-month bump since February 1974, according to CNBC.

The spike in grocery prices is likely directly correlated to the spike in demand for the product. Grocery stores have been some of the only retailers around the country to keep their doors open during the coronavirus pandemic. And with restaurants closed to dine-in patrons, people have been eating at home more than ever, too.

In addition, there have been mounting concerns over the food supply chain, particularly in regard to the meat industry. The prices of meat products saw a particular spike: The cost of meats, poultry, fish and eggs jumped by 4.3%. However, the price increase was seen across food categories, though it was lower than the overall total. The cost of fruits and vegetables and dairy products both went up by 1.5%, while cereals and baked goods jumped by 2.9%.

At the end of April, Tyson Foods, one of the country’s largest meat producers, ran a full-page ad in The New York Times warning of a potential scarcity in meat products.

“Millions of animals—chickens, pigs and cattle—will be depopulated because of the closure of our processing facilities,” the ad read. “The food supply chain is breaking.”

That month, several meat processing plants had temporarily closed across the country due to coronavirus outbreaks, one of which was Tyson Foods’ biggest U.S. pork plant, located in Iowa. On April 28, President Donald Trump signed an executive order for meat processing plants to reopen.

The increase in grocery prices stands in contrast to prices for essentially everything else. Overall prices dropped by 0.8% in April—the biggest one-month dip seen since the 2008 financial crisis. That number is most closely tied to the decrease in gasoline prices, which dropped by more than 20% in April.

@dianapearl_ Diana is the brand marketing editor at Adweek and managing editor of Brandweek.