When Americans sit down at their Thanksgiving tables, many of the items in front of them will be more expensive than they were last year. Cake in particular. And climate change is contributing to it.
Inflation hits every sector of the economy, and food is not immune. But many of the ingredients found in vacation pies have been hit by floods, fires and drought, leading to shortages and price hikes.
For example the crust. Wheat prices are now at their highest level since 2012 and have increased by over 10% in the last month alone. A severe drought in the western and northern plains of the US caused the worst wheat production in nearly two decades, according to estimates by the US Department of Agriculture.
These higher costs for wheat and alfalfa increase feed costs and lead to rising milk prices. Cows produce less milk even during droughts.
Then there is the cake filling.
“The Pacific Northwest had a terrible year between the heat and the drought. We have seen a lot of things that they are good at, like cherries and apples, and we see a pretty big impact on their production from where they normally are, ”said Michael Swanson, agricultural economist at Wells Fargo.
Pumpkins are also more expensive, as heavy rainfall has created pumpkin shortages in the Midwest. The average price for a pumpkin this fall was 15% higher.
Even honey. Forest fires in the west left honey bees with little to eat. States like California, Colorado, Montana, and Utah have lost nearly half of their honeybee colonies in the past two years to disease, hunger, and unusual weather.
Imports are also affected. The prices for vanilla from Madagascar and chocolate from Brazil are also rising due to storms and floods.
“Now we’re even more worried than we were in Brazil about frost or flooding in China. That’s why we can no longer hide from global storms because they’re all part of the food chain,” said Swanson.
At The Pie Shop in Washington, DC, Thanksgiving orders are all fulfilled and the cakes are piling up, but so is the cost.
“I would say there are a number of ingredients that are almost twice as high some weeks as they were last year,” says Sandra Basanti, who has run the shop with her husband for 12 years.
Basanti tries to source its ingredients locally to keep costs down, but large items like flour, sugar, and eggs have to be purchased from wholesalers. She also makes savory patties that require beef, and the cost of these goes up too.
All of this hits your small business particularly hard.
“Usually we can make a little more money on Thanksgiving to cushion us for the slow winter, but this year I’m not so sure we’re going to be really profitable,” she said.
For over 12 years, Basanti has said it has increased its prices by maybe 10%, but that’s not enough to offset the recent increase in its production costs. She didn’t want to raise prices now, she said, because “You can only ask so much for a cake.”