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AFBF: Bacon, chicken breast drive 2017 retail price hikes


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Thanks to a growing demand for bacon, retail prices as part of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) regular national survey of food products rose by an average 3 percent entering the fall harvest, compared to prices on the same goods a year ago.

That’s not a surprise to Heather Romano, recently shopping at Walmart in the southern Illinois town of Murphysboro. She had just placed a 1.5-pound package of Oscar Meyer thick-cut bacon in her shopping cart, for $8.99.

“What they’re charging now is definitely more than what I paid for it even a few months ago,” said Romano, who has three children. “I could buy the same package in past years for $5.99 sometimes, even lower with a coupon.”

Average retail bacon prices during the past year alone rose about 19 percent, according to the recent AFBF survey, to about $5.24 per pound.

It was the highest percentage increase for any of the 16 items that make up the survey’s marketbasket. All totaled, the basket of 16 food items came to $51.13, up by $1.43, or 3 percent, over the past year.

“Bacon was up significantly because of the lower inventory and higher prices of pork bellies. We saw a rally in wholesale bacon prices this summer and fall, which is being reflected at the retail level,” said John Newton, the AFBF’s director of market intelligence. “Bacon is a sexy food item in restaurants and everywhere else, creating an inventory decline and thus a price increase.”

Chicken breasts were the second-top driver for the slight overall increase in the marketbasket, up by about 9 percent to $3.13 per pound. Orange juice was another key factor, with the product up 6 percent over the past year to $3.46 for a half-gallon.

“Supply and demand for chicken breasts is tight, which is why retail prices are higher,” Newton said, adding that orange juice prices were affected by a lower supply of oranges due in part to the state’s “greening” disease.

He also noted that Hurricane Irma wiped out a lot of the state’s remaining crop this season, which will be reflected in even higher prices for juice in the coming months.

The AFBF survey uses volunteer shoppers from a total of 25 states, and the organization does not release specific data for each state. But the Indiana Farm Bureau does release its data, and it showed that for the same period of time, the same 16 products saw an overall decrease of about 12 percent, to a total of $44.85.

The 1-pound bacon price in Indiana was $4.84, down from the prior year’s total of $5.04, showing how retail prices can differ from state to state and from region to region, Newton said.

Isabella Chism, who oversees the IFB’s Marketbasket program, said prices that people in the United States pay for food remain reasonable.

“This will be welcome news for shoppers looking for affordable food to feed their families,” she said. “These prices are a clear reminder that we have a very affordable food supply in America and particularly in Indiana.”

The other products in the AFBF survey and each’s change in the past year are: flour, up 7 percent to $2.37 per 5-pound bag; vegetable oil, up 5 percent to $2.52 for a 32-ounce bottle; sliced deli ham, up 3 percent to $5.62 per pound; sirloin tip roast, up 3 percent to $5.17 per pound; whole milk, up 3 percent to $2.93 per gallon; white bread, up 2 percent to $1.61 for a 20-ounce loaf;

Toasted oat cereal, up 1 percent to $2.84 for a 9-ounce box; shredded cheddar, up 1 percent to $4.11 per pound; apples, up 1 percent to $1.61 per pound; bagged salad, down 16 percent to $2.41 per pound; ground chuck, down 3 percent to $3.99 per pound; eggs, down 3 percent to $1.44 dozen per dozen; and potatoes, down 2 percent to $2.68 for a 5-pound bag.