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PolitiFact: An accusation that lacks the meat of truth

The statement

Slim Jims "just recently" cost 99 cents but now cost $2.69.

Sarah Palin, in an interview with Newsweek

The ruling

In an interview with Newsweek, former Republican Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin pointed to Slim Jims — the iconic beef snack — as an example of how food inflation poses a problem for the American economy, saying her husband, Todd, paid $2.69 for it at a gas station.

The term Palin used — "just recently" — is vague, but we thought the past year would be a reasonable yardstick. So we looked at federal inflation data for the period May 2010 to May 2011. For these figures, we turned to the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Workers, or CPI-U — the most commonly used measurement for inflation.

There's no category for Slim Jims, of course, but we did find at least two relevant categories. Beef prices have risen 10.2 percent during the past year, and snack prices have risen 2.8 percent over the same period.

But even a 10.2 percent increase in beef prices does not explain a price rise of roughly 170 percent, which is what Palin's comparison would suggest.

So we went directly to ConAgra, which makes Slim Jims.

Teresa Paulsen, a ConAgra spokeswoman, said, "We haven't raised the price significantly on any Slim Jim products."

She also offered a possible explanation for the confusion. "Our iconic Slim Jim Giant Sticks are priced around $1.30," Paulsen said. "Mr. Palin might have been reaching for one of our Slim Jim Monster Sticks, which offers double the meat for $2.30, or our Slim Jim Kippered Beef Steak, which typically sells for around $2.65."

We'll note that it's also possible that Todd Palin was at a store that disregarded ConAgra's suggested retail price.

So where does this leave us? Food prices — an always-volatile sector — are indeed going up. But food prices are not rising by anything approaching 170 percent. Palin's anecdote offers spice, but not a lot of meat. We rate it False.

This ruling has been edited for print. For the full version, go to PolitiFact.com.

PolitiFact: An accusation that lacks the meat of truth 07/12/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 12, 2011 11:00pm]
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