The Price of Christmas Dinner is Up With Inflation – Traverse City Record Eagle

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Cloudy. Snow likely late. Low 27F with temps rising to near freezing. Winds ESE at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of snow 90%. Snowfall around one inch..
Cloudy. Snow likely late. Low 27F with temps rising to near freezing. Winds ESE at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of snow 90%. Snowfall around one inch.
Updated: December 26, 2021 @ 8:22 pm
Traverse City, MI
Workers harvest crops at Grossnickle Farms in Kaleva.
Jose Cabrera pours a tray of harvested cherries into production equipment for sorting at Wunsch Farms in July on Old Mission Peninsula.
Trays sweet cherries harvested in July at Wunsch Farms on Old Mission Peninsula.

Workers harvest crops at Grossnickle Farms in Kaleva.
Jose Cabrera pours a tray of harvested cherries into production equipment for sorting at Wunsch Farms in July on Old Mission Peninsula.
Trays sweet cherries harvested in July at Wunsch Farms on Old Mission Peninsula.
TRAVERSE CITY – The 12 days of Christmas are finally here.
It’s too bad they arrived after 20 months of runaway inflation — spurred by supply chain meltdowns, workforce shortages, and a global economy that has been repeatedly wrongfooted by variants of COVID-19.
The result is that a dollar in November of 2021 buys about 7 percent less Christmas ham than a dollar in November of 2020.
From gingerbread cookies to green beans, inflation will make everything about northwest Michigan’s second pandemic Christmas a little more expensive. This year saw the largest increase in inflation in 30 years — a 6.8 percent bump between October of 2020 to October of 2021. The spike was particularly high for meat and seafood products, although some northern Michigan farmers escaped the worst of the bite.
Inflation first hit holiday shoppers around Thanksgiving. Then, the American Farm Bureau reported a 14 percent spike in the price of a Thanksgiving dinner compared to the year earlier.
This year, would-be Christmas turkey chefs paid more, with whole, fresh turkeys costing 26 cents per pound more than last year, according to a report released last week by the USDA.
The high price of turkey dovetails with the biggest pricing changes in American supermarkets: Meat and seafood are way up, especially products coming from big producers and national distributors, according to the USDA.
Those dreaming of a maple-glazed honey ham paid 8 percent more than last year. Those shopping for a Christmas roast can expect an almost 9 percent price increase from last year. And for the fish lovers: seafood products are up 5 percent from what they were in 2020.
Staple Christmas vegetables, like green beans, are up as much as 4 percent. And anyone looking to pick up gingerbread cookies will notice those cost more, too, with sweets up by 2.7 percent, the USDA said.
The upside? Potato prices are actually down this year, thanks to an overwhelming supply of domestic potatoes that failed to leave the for foreign markets, according to the National Potato Council. So the cost of a Christmas turkey surrounded by Russet Potatoes might even out in the checkout lane.
The big hikes in the protein aisles of grocery stores are largely reflective of heightened costs of labor and animal feeds, said Steve Nance, General Manager at Oryana Community Co-op.
“Meat and seafood have taken some dramatic jumps,” said Nance. “Depending on what the product is, these could be double digit increases.”
At Oryana, the biggest price hikes came with goods that the co-op purchases from UNFI, a national food distributor.
But Oryana makes an interesting inflation case-study because of the store’s relationships with local farmers — family outfits in Leelanau and Antrim counties. Unlike big distributors, regional farmers didn’t struggle to find truckers, for example.
That kept their prices lower than national suppliers, leading to a convergence between organic and conventional food prices. Nance said it shows up on the sticker price in Oryana’s two co-ops, and that such price-stability supports the argument for relying on regional farmers and producers.
“When we couldn’t get national, we were able to fall back and get more from our local folks,” Nance said. “It proved the benefit of a resilient local food system.”
But pandemic wonkiness still runs through northern Michigan food supply chains. Price changes are creeping up on Danu Hof Farm, a pork, poultry and vegetable producer in Mancelona.
A 50-pound bag of chicken feed is up to $12.50 from a pre-pandemic $10.50, said Caitlin McSteffey-Sweenes, who founded Danu Hof with her husband Lawrence.
Their animal butchering costs are on the rise as well – a result of bottlenecks with the two USDA-approved butchers in northern Michigan.
Those butchers, RRR Meat Processing and Ebel’s, have labor shortages of their own, as well as heightened demand from non-typical clients, who are crowding farm supply stores to buy the same animal feed.
“Everyone decided during the past two years that they all wanted to try to raise a couple animals,” said Lawrence Sweenes. “Our feed went up because the demand went up small-scale. Our feed prices have gone up probably 70 to 100 percent in the past year.”
McSweeney-Steffes said she’s now calling Triple R months in advance in order to lock in a time to bring in their pigs. That’s a drastic shift from pre-pandemic days, when she could book a butchering date within the same month.
“It takes our pigs about nine months to reach butcher-weight,” said Caitlin McSteffey-Sweenes. “So I’ve been basically having to call them when they’re born to get dates and numbers.”
Added to the complexity are low rainfall levels from the summer, which led to less millable grains and added strain on the supply of feed in northwest Michigan.
Danu Hof has yet to raise prices on their hogs, McSweeney-Steffes said, even if that’s not a position they’re sure they can hold if inflation continues through the spring.
But at least it means local farm shoppers might be able to avoid paying big pandemic-premiums on a honey-glazed ham.
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