Grocery prices rose again in December, but some easing in beef and pork prices helped keep the increase below what it had been in the previous three months, according to the latest Consumer Price Index.
Both the overall CPI, which includes energy, housing and transportation, and the cost of eating at home increased by 0.5% in December. The CPI is up 7% over the past 12 months, the largest amount in 40 years, while grocery prices increased 6.5% over the year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which compiles the monthly data on consumer costs.
By comparison, supermarket prices have risen on average by about 1.5% annually over the past 10 years.
Prices for five of the six major grocery store food groups rose in December, with fruits and vegetables up the most at 0.9%, driven by a 1.8% increase in the cost of fresh fruit. Citrus prices rose 6.5% in December, while potatoes cost 4.9% more.
The index for meat, poultry fish and eggs fell by 0.4% in December after rising at least 0.7% in each of the previous seven months. Prices for beef fell 2% in December, driven by declines in the cost of steaks and roasts, while pork prices were down 0.8%.
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The index for nonalcoholic beverages rose 0.8% in December, and the cost of dairy and related products increased 0.7%. The index for cereals and bakery products was up 0.4% in December.
Beef has been a significant driver of higher food costs over the past two years, and the White House has blamed the increase on consolidation in the packing industry. Packers argue that the increases are due to consumer demand as well as supply chain and labor issues, noting that the industry has been highly concentrated for years.
"Today’s report—which shows a meaningful reduction in headline inflation over last month, with gas prices and food prices falling—demonstrates that we are making progress in slowing the rate of price increases," President Joe Biden said in a statement issued by the White House. "At the same time, this report underscores that we still have more work to do, with price increases still too high and squeezing family budgets."
Republicans continued to link the inflation to the federal spending for which Biden has pushed.
"The high and accelerating inflation experienced under the Biden administration, partly as a predicted result of reckless spending legislation passed by Democrats last year, represents a stealth tax that continues to threaten Americans’ pocketbooks through higher costs at the pump and in grocery aisles," said the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, Mike Crapo of Idaho.
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