Meats, cheese lead retail food prices upward

by Keith Nunes
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WASHINGTON – The American Farm Bureau Federation’s Marketbasket Survey, a quarterly review of retail food prices, shows prices rose slightly during the first quarter of 2012, with meats and cheese showing the greatest increase in price.

The survey indicated the total cost of 16 food items that may be used to prepare one or more meals was $52.47, up $3.24 or about 7% compared to the fourth quarter of 2011. Of the 16 items surveyed, 13 increased and three decreased in average price compared to the prior quarter. The cost for the overall basket of foods increased about 7% compared to one year ago.

“Retail prices for meats and cheese were higher in the first quarter of the year due to generally strong demand and tight supplies, a situation that carried over from 2011,” said John Anderson, an A.F.B.F. senior economist. “According to agriculture department data, retail meat prices probably peaked sometime in the first quarter, and wholesale prices have declined noticeably in recent weeks. This suggests that retail meat prices may decline as 2012 progresses.”

Reversing a decline in the prior quarter, sliced deli ham increased 74c to $5.43 per lb; sirloin tip roast increased 60c to $4.75 per lb; ground chuck increased 36c to $3.53 per lb; shredded cheddar increased 33c to $4.65 per lb; and bacon increased 16c to $4.21 per lb.

Other items that increased in price compared to the fourth quarter of last year were bagged salad, up 37c to $2.85 per lb; flour, up 27c to $2.65 for a 5-lb bag; Russet potatoes, up 26c to $3.01 for a 5-lb bag; orange juice, up 19c to $3.36 for a half-gallon; apples, up 19c to $1.59 per lb; toasted oat cereal, up 6c to $3.13 for a 9-oz box; large eggs, up 5c to $1.77 per dozen; and vegetable oil, up 1c to $2.97 for a 32-oz bottle.

Whole milk decreased 23c to $3.53 per gallon; white bread decreased 7c to $1.85 for a 20-oz loaf; and boneless chicken breasts decreased 5c to $3.19 per lb.

Several items showing an increase in retail price from quarter-to-quarter also showed year-to-year increases. Compared to one year ago sirloin tip roast increased 20%, ground chuck increased 14% and sliced deli ham increased 11%.

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