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Meat, cheese behind this year’s retail increase in prices for food
Illinois Correspondent

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Meats and cheese drove up retail food prices by an average of 7 percent during the first quarter of 2012 – the same percentage increase as for the prior year, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) regular price tracking.
The AFBF Marketbasket Survey includes tracking of 16 food items that can be used to prepare one or more meals, and for the first quarter those items cost $52.47, up by $3.24 over the first quarter last year. Of the 16 items surveyed, 13 increased and three decreased in average price.

More than 60 percent of the overall basket increase came from cheddar cheese, ground chuck, bacon, sirloin tip roast and deli ham, according to the survey. Three of those items have increased by at least 10 percent in the past year; sirloin tip roast prices rose 20 percent, ground chuck increased 14 percent and sliced deli ham increased 11 percent.

Shoppers from 24 states participated in the bureau’s survey last month. John Anderson, the federation’s senior economist, noted the USDA has signaled that retail meat prices may have peaked for the year.

“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,” he said. “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.”

The 13 items that increased were: sliced deli ham, up 74 cents to $5.43 per pound; sirloin tip roast, up 60 cents to $4.75 per pound; ground chuck, up 36 cents to $3.53; shredded cheddar cheese, up 33 cents to $4.65; bacon, up 16 cents to $4.21; bagged salad, up 37 cents to $2.85; flour, up 27 cents to $2.65 for a five-pound bag; russet potatoes, up 26 cents to $3.01 for a five-pound bag; orange juice, up 19 cents to $3.36 for a half-gallon; apples, up 19 cents to $1.59 per pound; toasted oat cereal, up 6 cents to $3.13 for a nine-ounce box; large eggs, up 5 cents to $1.77 per dozen; and vegetable oil, up a penny to $2.97 for a 32-ounce bottle.

The three items that went down in price were: whole milk, down 23 cents to $3.53 per gallon; white bread, down 7 cents to $1.85 for a 20-ounce loaf; and boneless chicken breasts, down 5 cents to $3.19 per pound.

Citing the USDA’s Food Dollar Series online at Anderson said the percentage of retail prices paid that make to farmers has declined.
“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 percent, according to the Agriculture Department’s revised Food Dollar Series,” Anderson said.
Of the $52.47 average price for 16 items surveyed in March, farmers’ take would be $8.40.