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Grilling season started early this year with above average temperatures and lower meat costs. The early summer means families started to enjoy hot-off-the-grill foods much earlier than normal and at affordable prices.

The American Farm Bureau Market Basket Survey compares Missouri food prices with the national averages. Items in the most recent survey include a typical summer menu for a gathering of ten people. The offering includes burgers with cheese, hot dogs, pork spare ribs, potato salad, baked beans, corn chips and watermelon, along with buns and condiments. Beverages served are lemonade and chocolate milk. To allow for year-to-year price comparisons, the potato salad and baked beans are premade rather than favorite family recipes.

Missouri prices for these items rang in at $50.69 or slightly under $5.10 per person. The national average for those same items was $55.07, $5.50 per person. Due to record beef and pork production this year, major price shifts were found at the meat counter. Ground round dropped to $2.99 per pound compared to $4.56 last year. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the high inventory of red meat and pork contributed to the price drop.

Although fluid milk prices have declined due to record production, tighter stocks of American cheese moved the price upward. In Missouri, the price for one pound of cheese rose from $2.66 to $3.49 compared to the national average of $2.88 per pound.

The remaining items on the menu made slight shifts up or down without significant impact on the overall cost. Hamburger and hotdog buns dropped from $1.06 to $0.99, while mustard and ketchup rose slightly. The 28-ounce can of baked beans increased $0.03 to $1.79.

While consumers enjoy lower retail prices at the meat counter, overall prices for the output of U.S. farmers have been flat to lower for many years. Lower farm-gate prices contribute significantly to the bottom-line cost of the cookout.

America’s farmers are the world’s most productive and provide consumers with many food choices to meet nutritional needs and personal preferences. It is remarkable that each farmer raises enough food to feed 165 people. On the heels of celebrating our Independence Day, let’s salute the farmers and ranchers who work hard every day to grow our food.

Diane Olson, of Jefferson City, is Director of Promotion and Education for the Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization.

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