Summer picnic basics affordable at $5.28 per person

A summer picnic meal remains affordable at a cost of $5.28 per person, according to a recent American Farm Bureau survey.

Farm Bureau’s informal survey—released July 1—found the average cost of a summer cookout for 10 people is $52.80, up just 11 cents from last year.

The study used 100 volunteer shoppers in 34 states to check retail prices on favorite picnic items, including cheeseburgers, hot dogs, pork spare ribs, potato salad, baked beans, corn chips, lemonade and watermelon.

“Strong consumer demand for beef and growth in U.S. meat production has led to higher ground beef prices but lower pork spare rib prices,” noted Dr. John Newton, AFBF chief economist. U.S. food prices remain stable, and the cost of a summer cookout has remained relatively flat for five years.

Of the 13 foods surveyed, the average price of five decreased, five increased and three had no change compared to a year ago. Ground round increased 3% from $8.40 for 2 pounds to $8.64. Hot dogs increased from $2.26 a pound to $2.33. A can of baked beans was up 6 cents to $1.97. Watermelon was up 15 cents to $4.70, and a package of hamburger buns increased slightly to $1.55.

Pork production in 2019 continues to expand compared to last year. Increased supplies and competition in the grocery store meat case contributed to lower spare rib prices. Survey results found 4 pounds of spare ribs were $11.76, down 20 cents from last year.

With record-high milk production and increasing cheese production in 2019, consumers will see lower cheese prices this grilling season. Survey results showed American cheese at $2.80, down 3% from last year.

For the first time, AFBF tracked the average cost of 1.5 quarts of vanilla ice cream. Adding the $3.58 ice cream brings the total cost of a summer picnic to $56.38, which is still under $6 per person.

“Despite slight increases for some of the entrees and fixings, this year’s picnic meal is still quite affordable,” said Tony Banks, a commodity marketing specialist for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “Savvy shoppers can most likely find even better deals at the grocer for this or their favorite family menu.”

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