Meat is off the menu

5 September 2008
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I haven’t been to many BBQs this August, mainly because of the miserable weather. But I wonder if there is another, more money-orientated, reason why so few of my friends have flung open their garden gates for charred bangers, soggy buns and undercooked chicken this summer?

Rising food prices have hit the headlines more than one time this year, and households appear to be feeling the pinch. A recent Moneywise poll found that 23% of users think food prices are the most worrying aspect of the economic downturn, closely followed by higher energy bills (20%), and petrol prices (17%).

No wonder, when the cost of food is, by some estimates, up 10% since the start of the year. Now, new research commissioned by the BBC has shown exactly how food price inflation is hitting our supermarket trolleys.

While fruit and vegetables, bread and dairy products have all gone up in price since the start of 2008, meat and fish have seen the biggest hike, increasing by a whopping 22.9%. Within this category, a 125g packet of ham is now 45.4% more expensive, while the price of a medium chicken is up 41.9%.

The impact of this huge jump is already being felt - by my friends at least. At a recent dinner party attended by seven carnivores, my (meat-loving) host served a completely meat-free meal, with spinach tarts to start and vegetarian lasagne for the main.

While the food was delicious, it raised a few eyebrows, especially among the men who complained that a meal without meat just wasn’t right. But, as my friend explained, buying meat for eight people is now just too expensive.

In fact, he went as far as to say that he was considering going completely vegetarian until such time as meat prices were affordable again.

So, is food price inflation going to turn us all into tofu-loving, lentil-eating vegetarians?

Personally, I have already tried to cut back on the meat I put in my trolley each week, and cans of chickpeas have practically taken over my kitchen cupboards. Of course, it is easier to buy cheaper cuts of meat (perhaps liver is going to make a comeback?) but it just doesn't make sense to me to spend even more on food at a time when my household bills are also going up.

And while I miss my Sunday roast, meat just doesn’t seem to taste so good when I’ve paid through the nose for it

Rebecca Atkinson is the news editor of Moneywise.co.uk  

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