Food prices down for Easter

Lower retail prices for several foods, including eggs, ground chuck, sirloin tip roast, chicken breasts and toasted oat cereal resulted in a significant decrease in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Spring Picnic Marketbasket Survey.

“As expected due to lower farm-gate prices, we have seen continued declines in retail prices for livestock products including eggs, beef, chicken, pork and cheese,” said John Newton, AFBF’s director of market intelligence.

The informal survey showed the total cost of 16 food items that can be used to prepare one or more meals was $50.03, down $3.25 or about 6% compared to a year ago. Of the 16 items surveyed, 11 decreased, four increased and one remained the same in average price.

Egg prices are down sharply from a year ago and also are down slightly from the third quarter of 2016.

“Egg prices continue to move back toward long-run average prices following the bird flu of 2014/15,” Newton said. “The Agriculture Department is currently monitoring bird flu detections in the Southeast U.S. If detections continue, retail poultry prices could feel an impact due to lower exports or changes in supply.

“As farm-gate prices for livestock products have declined and remained lower, prices in the retail meat case have become more competitive,” Newton said.

Retail price changes from a year ago:

• eggs, down 41% to $1.32 per dozen

• toasted oat cereal, down 15% to $2.83 for a 9-ounce box

• sirloin tip roast, down 13% to $4.95 per pound

• ground chuck, down 10% to $3.92 per pound

• chicken breast, down 6% to $3.17 per pound

• apples, down 6% to $1.55 per pound

• flour, down 5% to $2.36 for a 5-pound bag

• shredded cheddar cheese, down 4% to $4.10 per pound

• deli ham, down 3% to $5.42 per pound

• bacon, down 3% to $4.65 per pound

• potatoes, down 1% to $2.68 for a 5-pound bag

• bagged salad, up 6% to $2.34 per pound

• white bread, up 2% to $1.72 per 20-ounce loaf

• orange juice, up 1% to $3.22 per half-gallon

• whole milk, up 1% to $3.27 per gallon

• vegetable oil, no change, $2.55 for a 32-ounce bottle

Price checks of alternative milk and egg choices not included in the overall marketbasket survey average revealed the following: 1/2 gallon whole regular milk, $2.10; 1/2 gallon organic milk, $4.20; and one dozen “cage-free” eggs, $3.48.

The year-to-year direction of the marketbasket survey tracks closely with the federal government’s Consumer Price Index (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cpi.nr0.htm) report for food at home. As retail grocery prices have increased gradually over time, the share of the average food dollar that America’s farm and ranch families receive has dropped.

“Through the mid-1970s, farmers received about one-third of consumer retail food expenditures for food eaten at home and away from home, on average. Since then, that figure has decreased steadily and is now about 16%, according to the Agriculture Department’s revised Food Dollar Series,” Newton said.

AFBF, the nation’s largest general farm organization, began conducting informal quarterly marketbasket surveys of retail food price trends in 1989. The series includes a spring picnic survey, summer cookout survey, fall harvest survey and Thanksgiving dinner cost survey.

According to USDA, Americans spend just under 10% of their disposable annual income on food, the lowest average of any country in the world. A total of 117 shoppers in 31 states participated in the latest survey, conducted in March.

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