Home / Business / Hold the burger: Here’s why meat prices are heating up in Canada

Hold the burger: Here’s why meat prices are heating up in Canada

TORONTO — With the warmer weather upon us and grilling season in full swing, Canadians may have noticed their grocery bill at the meat counter has been a little harder to swallow as of late.

In fact, in the past four months, the price of ground beef has risen by 5 per cent, steak and bacon are up 4 per cent, and chicken is up 3 per cent, according to Statistics Canada data.

“What’s unusual this year is that all three components of the meat trifecta – chicken, pork, and beef – they’re all expensive,” Sylvain Charlebois, a professor in food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University, told CTV’s Your Morning on Wednesday. “Very rarely you see chicken go up by 4 or 5 per cent a year, it actually did happen this year.”

While extreme weather and poor agricultural conditions are typically to blame for the rising cost of food, in this case Charlebois said global food supply chains have been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Costs have gone up,” he said. “That’s the reality for packaging, logistics, everything and if you’ve noticed, the price of oil has gone up and so to move things around, it’s costing more as well.”

According to Canada’s Food Price Report 2021, which was released in December, grocery bills are increasing due to border, plant and distribution centre closures, labour shortages, logistics disruptions, unemployment, shifts in consumer demand, modifications in production, manufacturing, distribution, and retailing practices to enhance safety.

Charlebois, who led the project for the report with the support from colleagues at the University of Guelph, the University of Saskatchewan, and the University of British Columbia, said they were expecting in December that prices would go up by 5 per cent in 2021.

“And that’s pretty much what’s happening right now as a result of the fact that it’s costing more to manufacture, to offer all the food that we actually buy every single day,” he said.

And while a 5 per cent increase for groceries may not sound like a lot, it adds up. The report estimated that Canadian families could be paying as much as $695 more for food in 2021.

It’s not only meat that is being affected by the global instability either, according to Charlebois.

The prices for corn, wheat, soybeans, canola, sugar, and coffee have also gone up, which is directly linked to meat because grains are needed to feed livestock.

“You need feed to feed cattle, and hogs and so on and so forth and that’s why meat counter economics are much more complicated than before,” he said.

Along with meat and grains, Charlebois said consumers should pay attention to changing costs of their produce.

“It’s always volatile, produce, you never know what to expect,” he said. “You need to know what price you should be paying for each and every vegetable and fruit you enjoy and of course it changes every single week, so you want to be careful there.”

As for how long Canadians can expect their grocery bills to keep getting more expensive? Charlebois said until summer is over, at least.

“There’s a lot of pressure from the demand side, it should stop as soon as the American economy starts to pick up again,” he predicted.

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