indicatorThe Owl

Food prices in Alberta

The price of fresh and frozen beef has shot up much faster than food in general

By Rob Roach, ATB Economics 4 November 2021 2 min read

Official inflation numbers can be frustrating because they are averages that lump together a lot of products and services in ways that don’t necessarily reflect our individual experiences.

For example, buying food from stores accounted for about 12% of the expenditures of the average Alberta household in 2020 and the average price of food purchased from stores in Alberta increased by 9.3% between January 2019 and September 2021. If, however, you have four kids who can drink enough milk to fill a swimming pool each week, you are in a different boat than two empty nesters carefully watching their weight.

With this in mind, it’s useful to take a look at how the prices of specific food products have changed over the last few years.

Using January 2019 as our starting point and September 2021 as our end point, we find that the price of fresh and frozen beef has shot up much faster than food in general, rising by a wallet-draining 26.8%. Poultry and pork prices are not far behind at +20.7% and +17.3%, respectively.

Things have gone a little easier on the pescatarians out there with the price of fish, seafood and other marine products up by a more modest 4.0%.

Eggs, however, were 21.4% more expensive and butter was up by 12.3%. If you were trying to save money by purchasing margarine, you were out of luck with the cost of “edible fats and oils” up by 24.5%.

Some prices have risen slower than the overall rate of inflation, including fresh fruit at +3.3% and bakery products at +2.3% while others have actually gone down, including fresh vegetables (-0.1%) and coffee and tea (-3.5%). Again, these price changes are for board categories so you may notice that grapes have gone up more than bananas or cabbage is cheaper while potatoes are more expensive.

Given the above, it might be best to think of the inflation rate as akin to the average temperature over a month or year. A higher or lower average provides useful information, but it doesn’t tell you if you will need a coat today or not.

Answer to the previous trivia question: At 13% versus 12% of total employment in Alberta, the retail sector has more employees than the health and social services sector.

Today’s trivia question: How much did a 600-pound bluefin tuna sell for at a Tokyo fish auction in 2020?

The average price of food purchased from stores in Alberta increased by 9.3% between January 2019 and September 2021

The average price of food purchased from stores in Alberta increased by 9.3% between January 2019 and September 2021


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