Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Will the Drought Alter Your Menu or Grocery Shopping?

The drought stretching across more than half the country has been headlining all over.  Now, the true costs are starting to sink in.  If we don't get substantial rain in the next couple of weeks, the chain of events will continue to steamroll.  Poor crop yield for things like corn affect more than most of us think.

Let's start with how livestock will be effected.  Livestock that typically is feeding on fresh grass this time of year, which costs pretty much nil, are already being fed the generous amount of hay that was put up this spring.  Hay that was being counted on to feed them this winter after the grass stopped growing.

Farmers typically get in 2-3 cuts of hay.  After the great first cutting yield, the drought hit and the grass stopped growing.  As in, I'm in Michigan and didn't mow my grass for the past month and it looks like I mowed it yesterday.  That's bad.  Now there is very little time to get enough rain to get a 3rd cutting of hay and if the grass and alfalfa dries up much more it will have to be replanted before it grows and that means no 2nd cutting either.  That will drive up hay prices.  Even a 2nd cutting may be poor in nutrients and require supplements.  You've all heard about the corn and how bad it is for the corn yield to be down.  Corn is also in the feed used to supplement livestock when the hay quality or quantity is not sufficient.  Corn prices rising means all feed/grain prices rise.  Livestock producers will be forced to shell out big bucks to feed that cow enough to get her to produce that milk you drink which will in turn raise prices on straight-to-the-table goods like milk, butter, yogurt, sour cream, etc.  Same story with that steak you are grilling tonight and the pulled pork you've got in the crockpot.  $$$  

So what are the smaller farmers to do?  Downsize the herds they can't afford to feed.  Influx of cattle and other livestock into the slaughter market will initially mean lower meat prices as there is a surplus.  As the stream of livestock in slows, prices will jump.  I'm planning to stock the freezer as the prices go down.  Same story goes for other livestock that provide food goods we consume - pigs, chicken, etc.  I like to think I'm less reliant than some on the meat market because my husband is an avid hunter but reality the past couple of years has shown that we because venison is our red meat staple, we are usually out before spring.  Although it does afford me the ability to wait until I see a good sale on white meat and fish to stock up.

Check out the ingredients in your favorite foods - do they include corn or a corn by-product like vegetable oil or corn syrup?  Chances are prices will rise if this is a low-yield corn crop across the nation.  Apples and cherries were also hit hard here in Michigan while more drought- and frost-resistant fruits like strawberries and blueberries are doing well.  Will you stock up on the fruits and veggies that are doing well so you can avoid paying the prices of more expensive produce later in the year?  I'm thinking about another trip for strawberries and a load of blueberries before the season is done so I can freeze some whole to use in recipes because I don't expect to be able to put up apples and applesauce like I normally do.  I'll also be grabbed every zucchini and other bit of fresh produce folks in the country sell out of their yards for quarters and canning and freezing as much as I can.

So have you considered the affect the drought may have on your grocery budget?  What are you doing or do you think you will do to counter that?  Tell me about it!


Vicki @ lifeinmyemptynest said...

I don't have the same issues as you, but my flowers are suffering too. I can't water enough to keep up.
We did get a little rain last night :-)

Sapir @ The Sapphire Queen said...

I was actually wondering a few days ago why more people weren't talking about this drought, and then I happened to stumble upon your blog! At our house we have a relatively small garden where we've started planting some things but if prices rise to high, we might have to start planting a lot more!
Also, I'm now your newest follower and would love it if you could return the follow if you get the chance!