Your grocery bill could be $400 more expensive starting in 2019, study says

Kareem Gouda / December 3, 2018

Even though more people are switching to a plant-based diet, eating healthy may cost more in 2019.
(Kareem Gouda / BCIT News)

The University of Guelph’s Food Price Report for 2019 is out and the price for meat and seafood is forecasting a drop in price for the first time in a decade.

Categories of meat have previously increased in price year over year. However, produce will not follow suit and eating healthy may be getting even more expensive.

The 2019 food report says that while meat is a bit cheaper, fruits and vegetables may offset that. Families will definitely feel a rise in costs next year. 

Dietitian, Jessica Pirnak, says that for the average family of four your monthly grocery bill is already close to a thousand dollars.

“This is not even from buying fancy avocado-oil or high value items. These are just the costs for the staples: meat, bread and produce for two adults and two kids.” – Jessica Pernak, Dietitian

The meat of the matter

A large reason for the downturn in meat prices is in response to more people eating plant-based diets and consuming less meat, particularly red meat, Pernak says.

Pernak says the meat industry has lowered their prices to drive customers back to their products. It’s nothing new, but this report speaks to how supply and demand can be swayed on the demand side. People want less meat so the question becomes: How can we make them buy more?

Until recently, advocates for more plant-based diets have been fighting to get people to eat less meat, particularly red meat. Now, according to Pirnak, the shoe’s on the other hoof.

“People are choosing not to eat red meat for many reasons:  For the environment, for their health, and for animal husbandry standards.”  

– Jessica Pernak, Dietitian

“People are choosing not to eat red meat for many reasons. For the environment, for their health, and for animal husbandry standards.” – Jessica Pirnak, Dietitian
( Source / Pixabay )

Learning from the past

Back in 2015, the annual Food Report by the University of Guelph showed sharp rise in the costs of fruits and nuts and vegetables. However, prices exceeded expectations. The report forecast a rise in fruit and nut prices between 3 to 5 per cent. In reality, prices actually shot up by 9.1 per cent.

It was a similar story with vegetables in 2015 as well. Forecasts placed the rise in costs between 5.5 per cent and 7.5 percent. However, the actual rise in cost was 10.1 per cent, according to the report.

Many of the reasons for the rise come from a poor Canadian dollar exchange rate. According to the Guelph report the Canadian dollar took a dive in 2015 and did so sharply before any importers could hedge against our currency.

The report also cites another problem with fruits and vegetables. A key issue is that produce doesn’t really have any substitutes if you aren’t eating meat. So, many consumers will continue to eat the vegetables and the costs as well.

The graph below based on the annual Guelph Food Report and illustrates how prices aren’t rooted in certainty and can be quite volatile from one year to the next.

A large reason for the downturn in meat prices is in response to more people eating plant-based diets and consuming less meat, particularly red meat.
(Kareem Gouda / BCIT News)

Yes, we can

But there is a silver lining, in the form of a can or bag. While they may seem like a culinary consolation, frozen and canned produce can be as nutritionally viable as fresh.

Furthermore, it has a much longer shelf life, it can often be cheaper and it’s better than eating produce out of season.

Pernak says that eating canned or frozen fruits and vegetables can be a great alternative when fresh produce prices rise.

“What’s really cool is that they can and freeze them at peak ripeness. So, you’re not losing any nutrition when you eat frozen or canned fruits and vegetables.” – Jessica Pernak, Dietitian