Category Archives: food

The Cost of a Summer Cookout in 2023

The Fourth of July is a time for American families and friends to gather for the second-greatest of American food traditions: the summer cookout!

The good news is that in 2023, it will be ever-so-slightly cheaper than last year. Here's our visualization of the costs of the items included in the Farm Bureau's summer cookout menu:

When we say the cost compared to 2022 is ever-so-slightly cheaper, we're not kidding. For a menu that will feed approximately 10 people, it will cost $6.77 per person in 2023, down 22 cents per person from last year's cost. That's still $0.82 more per person than the cost of 2021's cookout grocery list.

Here's how the Farm Bureau framed the cost of its summer cookout menu for 2023:

Celebrating the 4th of July with a cookout will cost significantly more than two years ago, although prices have fallen slightly from record highs in 2022. Families will pay $67.73 to host an Independence Day cookout with 10 family members or friends, based on the 2023 American Farm Bureau Federation marketbasket survey.

The $67.73 grocery bill is down 3% from 2022, but still approximately 14% higher than prices were just two years ago. Last year set a record high since AFBF began the survey in 2013, and 2023 comes in as the second-highest cost. The cookout favorites include cheeseburgers, chicken breasts, pork chops, homemade potato salad, strawberries and ice cream, among other products.

“The slight downward direction in the cost of a cookout doesn’t counter the dramatic increases we’ve seen over the past few years. Families are still feeling the pinch of high inflation along with other factors keeping prices high,” said AFBF Chief Economist Roger Cryan. “Don’t assume farmers come out as winners from higher prices at the grocery store either. They’re price takers, not price makers, whose share of the retail food dollar is just 14%. Farmers have to pay for fuel, fertilizer and other expenses, which have all gone up in cost.”

Which is to say they aren't buying into the skiffy greedflation claims being circulated by certain political activists.

The data in the chart was collected by Farm Bureau staff members and other volunteers, who shopped for the individual items needed for their summer cookout at 240 different stores in every state and Puerto Rico. The total menu cost of $67.73 represents the second-highest recorded since the Farm Bureau began their annual cost of a summer cookout project in 2013. Only 2022's cost of a summer cookout for 10 people is higher.

The Geometry of Perfectly Roasted Potatoes

The Edge Hotel School at the University of Essex has unleashed the power of geometry to give its students an edge within the very competitive hospitality industry. They've identified the optimal angle for slicing potatoes to craft the ultimate roasted potato dish.

Their two-minute long video summarizes their research findings:

By slicing a potato in half along its long axis, then cutting the halves at a 30-degree angle, they maximize their surface area of the potatoes, which leads to better tasting results when they're roasted.

Economically prepare better tasting food is a very big deal in the hospitality industry. Developing a method of economically preparing a better tasting roasted potato can indeed make a difference at the margin. A difference that can determine success or failure in an industry known for having relatively low net margins.

HT: The UI Junkie.

Previously on Political Calculations

Consumers Catch a Break in Egg Prices

The Dimensioned Egg, based on photo by Jasmin Egger via Unsplash - https://unsplash.com/photos/PcGNb3QJjXI

As expected, the price of a dozen Grade A eggs fell in February 2023, dropping 12.4% to $4.21 on average nationally from $4.81 in January 2023. That's still about $2.21 higher per dozen than they were a year earlier, but a positive development all the same.

The prices of eggs of all types fell 6.7% from January to February 2023 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Meanwhile, the Urner Barry Egg Index has been increasing in recent weeks, with the wholesale price of a dozen eggs rising from a low of $1.95 on 13 February 2023 to $2.80 on 13 March 2023. That suggests egg prices will not be falling back to where they were before the spread of avian flu forced egg producers to cull their flocks for some time to come.

We don't plan to continue following the price of eggs in the U.S. For us, it was a fun exercise to work out when a top in retail prices for a rapidly rising commodity would be likely to take place. Our long, slow transition into a food blog will go in other directions!...

References

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Graphics for Economic News Releases. Average price data (in U.S. dollars), selected items (Eggs, grade A, large, per doz.). [Online Application]. Accessed 14 February 2023.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control. H5N1 Bird Flu Detections across the United States (Backyard and Commercial). Data Table. [CSV Data]. Accessed 14 February 2023.

Urner Barry. Urner Barry Egg Index. [Online Application]. 13 February 2023. Accessed 13 February 2023.

Image credit: Photo by Jasmin Egger on Unsplash, to which we added the dimensional annotations, and originally featured here!

Previously on Political Calculations

Here's where we've previously covered avian flu and its effects on the prices of turkeys and eggs.

Visualizing 25 Years of U.S. Soybean Exports to China

Soy beans closeup by Daniela Paola Alchapar via Unsplash - https://unsplash.com/photos/AlqMN9ub3Aw

From time to time during our projects, we accumulate and present data that is interesting in and of itself. Today, that involves 25 years worth of data about U.S. exports of soybeans to China!

Soybeans are the United States' top export to China. In 2022, China bought $17.9 billion worth of soybeans from the U.S., the most it ever has in nominal terms. The following chart shows the value of the soybeans that U.S. producers have sold to China's buyers from 1997 through 2022.

Nominal Value of U.S. Soybean Exports to China, 1997 - 2022

But U.S. producers delivered only 1,117 million bushels of soybeans to China's buyers in 2022, the fifth highest total shipped during the past 25 years, as shown in the next chart. 2016 holds the record at 1,325 million bushels, while 2020 ranks second.

Quantity (Bushels) of U.S. Soybean Exports to China, 1997 - 2022

While U.S. soybean exports to China generally shows a rising trend over time, the years of 2018 and 2019 deviate from the trend. That deviation was a consequence of the U.S. and China's tariff war that took place during those years.

The final chart connects the previous two charts by showing the average nominal price per bushels that China's buyers have paid for U.S. soybeans during each of these 25 years.

Average Price per Bushel of U.S. Soybean Exports to China, 1997 - 2022

In 2022, China's buyers paid an average of $16.00 for each bushel of U.S. soybeans they bought, the highest nominal price they've paid from 1997 through 2022. The second highest average price of $15.46 per bushel was recorded in 2012 and the third highest price of $14.74 per bushel was in 2013. These highest-ranking years for soybean price stand out because they coincided with severe drought conditions faced by soybean growers in the U.S. and, in the case of 2022, that also occurred elsewhere in the world.

References

U.S. Department of Agriculture. Foreign Agricultural Service. Global Agricultural Trade System Standard Query Database. [Online Database]. Accessed 12 March 2023.

Image credit: Photo by Daniela Paola Alchapar on Unsplash.

How Campbell’s Tomato Soup Is Made

In 2008, the Food Network's Unwrapped visited Campbell Soup's test kitchens to learn how the company works to produce its then 110-year-old product. Here's a just over three-minute long video clip of the segment:

What Unwrapped couldn't show in the segment is the process by which Campbell Soup condenses its tomato soup, which was a massive innovation that enabled the company to ship its product to a larger market at less cost than its competitors. Removing water from the soup greatly reduced the amount of soup that had to be canned and shipped, where the real trick lay in doing that without harming its flavor.

Now entering its 125th year of production, Campbell's Condensed Tomato Soup represents its second best seller, ranking behind the company's Chicken Noodle Soup that was introduced in 1934.

In 2008, the cost of an iconic Number One size can of Campbell's Condensed Tomato Soup ranged between $0.50 and $0.80 cents per can, with its average price hovering around $0.70 per can. Fifteen years later, the typical price U.S. consumers pay for the same size can of Campbell's tomato soup is over $1.20 per can, with the last 20+ cents of that increase being added within the past year.

Campbell's Condensed Tomato Soup Unit Price per Can, January 2000 - March 2023

2022's inflation appears to be slowing, with no major price increases recorded for Campbell's Condensed Tomato Soup during the past three months. In January 2023, the Kroger family of grocery stores sold 10.75 ounce cans of Campbell's Condensed Tomato Soup for $1.00 per can, which looks to be the lowest price consumers can now expect to find it at when the soup is put on sale at deeply discounted prices. From 2010 through 2021, a price of $1.00 per can was the ceiling for how much American consumers would pay for the cozy comfort food.