Here’s why food prices from Utah farmers went up this year
Julie Clifford usually rises before dawn to take care of her farm animals in Provo. She’s joined by her son, who also works on the farm full-time, tending to the animals and crops. Later in the evening, her husband helps out after his other part-time job.
This year, they have had to scale back some of their production due to a combination of things like the pandemic, labor shortages across Utah, and the drought.
“We are holding things very close to the vest,” Clifford said. “We're not breeding as much. We're not bringing in new animals as much. It's just made us take things a lot more cautiously.”
Their farm sells to local restaurants across the Wasatch Front like Pago, Caputo’s Market and Deli, Communal and to the local Utah County community.
Pre-pandemic six people were working on the Clifford Family Farm, but now it’s just the three of them. They’ve also gone from working with 46 clients to 12.
Clifford said the cost of animal feed has also led them to increase the price on their products. During a regular year, her family grows their own hay in San Juan County but that wasn’t possible this year with the lack of irrigation.
“We'd have to buy hay this season at a ridiculous rate and our feed costs have all gone way up. We've had to raise our meat costs because of that, and our egg costs, actually,” she said.
Clifford raised their prices by about 20-25%. She said they probably should have raised it more but they’re trying to stay away from more increases, especially as their business partners continue to economically recover.
“It's hard to tell a restaurant that's just barely getting up and going and back into business. ‘Oh yeah, we're here, but you've got to pay this much more for your product.’ You know? It is difficult for them [too], and we recognize that,” she said.
Shayn Bowler, owner of Utah Natural Meat located in West Jordan is in a similar position. Bowler said he’s never seen animal feed costs this expensive in all his years of farming. He started his own family farm in 2009, but he’s been helping farm since he was a kid.
Bowler said he raised the price on his turkeys by $1 per pound this season, and his customers have been questioning the reason.
“The consumers are having a hard time understanding the price increases because it appears what they see in the media and things like that are conflicting,” he said. “One customer had asked about price gouging, if that's why we raised ours, cause you can't get turkeys anywhere, so we raised our prices just so we could make more money.”
He said that’s not the case. Farmers are just trying to adapt to challenges as they come.
Clifford said it’s hard for customers to comprehend these price increases because they are so detached from where their food comes from.
“We don't understand cause and effect,” she said. “A lot of times we would kind of have a Walmart mentality that we can just go into the store and get it. I'm thinking this year has helped us understand a little bit that that's not always the case and that we need to appreciate and support the people that are trying to keep going with this.”
For now, they said they’re both waiting until animal feeding prices go down.