A grilled cheeseburger is one of the great summer treats – but according to the USDA, which is where we get all our burger-economic news, the cost of a cheeseburger has gone up about 20 percent over the past 20 years.
The USDA’s Economic Research Service looked into the price of a grilled-at-home cheeseburger, including ground beef, bun, lettuce, tomato, and a slice of cheddar cheese (nontraditional but certainly allowed) over the past two decades. In 1998, those ingredients cost $0.91, which when adjusted for inflation comes to $1.40 in 2018 dollars. But if you tried to make that same classic cheddarburger today? It’d cost $1.69.
The difference in cost is due almost entirely to an increase in the price of ground beef; the cheese, bread, lettuce, and tomato prices all dropped. The country’s biggest beef producing state, by far, is Texas, which since 2010 has been suffering through various droughts in grazing land. To feed their cattle, Texas ranchers have had to buy hay made more expensive by droughts or simply truck cattle to (literally) greener pastures. California, which ranks fourth in beef cattle numbers, has had its own, even more publicized droughts.
The USDA notes that many of the biggest disruptions to the beef process have been solved, but prices are slower to rebound, partly because cows gestate for over nine months and can only birth one or two calves a year.
Still, as Quartz notes, demand for burgers remains high and is even increasing, with customers not even aware that the price of ground meat has risen so significantly. On that happy note, enjoy your burgers this summer!