By DOUG SCHMITZ
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On their trips to the supermarket, shoppers will soon discover retail prices for such breakfast staples as eggs, bacon, orange juice, milk and toasted oat cereal have gone up 2 percent over the last three months, according to the latest American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) Quarterly Marketbasket Survey.
“While prices were up from the second quarter, compared to a year ago the Marketbasket price was actually lower, by about 2 percent,” said John Anderson, AFBF’s deputy chief economist. “For most of this year, food prices have been relatively stable. This is consistent with the very slow but steady growth in the general economy that has been seen throughout the year, along with fairly stable energy prices.”
According to the survey, the total cost of 16 food items that can be used to prepare one or more meals was $51.90, up $1 or about 2 percent, compared to the second quarter of 2012.
Since 1989, the AFBF has been conducting the informal quarterly Marketbasket Survey of retail food price trends, with the mix of foods in the basket updated in 2008. Conducted in August, the latest survey had 79 shoppers in 26 states participating.
Of the 16 items surveyed, nine increased and seven decreased in average price compared to the prior quarter, with the cost for the overall basket of foods decreasing about 2 percent compared to one year ago. Most of the slight quarter-to-quarter increase in the Marketbasket of foods can be attributed to higher retail prices for breakfast staples, apples and bagged salad, the survey indicated.
Items showing retail price increases for the third quarter included: apples, up 36 cents to $1.86 per pound; large eggs, up 33 cents to $1.94 per dozen; bagged salad, up 20 cents to $2.94 per pound; bacon, up 19 cents to $4.23 per pound; and whole milk, up 19 cents to $3.55 for one gallon.
For the third quarter of 2012, shoppers reported the average price for a half-gallon of regular whole milk was $2.31, up 10 cents from the prior quarter. The average price for one gallon of regular whole milk was $3.54, up 18 cents.
The survey indicated the average price for a half-gallon of rBST-free milk was $3.35, down 22 cents from the last quarter, about 40 percent higher than the reported retail price for a half-gallon of regular milk ($2.31). What’s more, the average price for a half-gallon of organic milk was $3.81, down 9 cents compared to the prior quarter – about 70 percent higher than the reported retail price for a half-gallon of regular milk ($2.31).
The average price for one dozen regular eggs for the third quarter of 2012 was $1.94, up 33 cents compared to the prior quarter. The average price for a dozen cage-free eggs was $3.22, down 7 cents compared to the prior quarter but nearly double (90 percent higher) the price of regular eggs.
Compared to a year ago (third quarter of 2011), regular eggs increased 9 percent, while cage-free eggs increased 4 percent, the survey indicated. For the third quarter of 2012, the average price for one dozen regular eggs was $1.94, up 33 cents compared to the prior quarter.
In addition, the average price for a dozen cage-free eggs was $3.22, down 7 cents compared to the prior quarter but nearly double (90 percent higher) the price of regular eggs. Compared to a year ago, regular eggs increased 9 percent, while cage-free eggs increased 4 percent.
The survey also indicated orange juice was up 13 cents to $3.30 for a half-gallon; boneless chicken breasts, up 8 cents to $3.17 per pound; sirloin tip roast, up 5 cents to $4.74 per pound; and toasted oat cereal, up 1 cent to $3 for a 9-ounce box.
The survey stated the following items showed modest retail price declines: ground chuck decreased 19 cents to $3.47 per pound; white bread, 13 cents to $1.75 for a 20-ounce loaf; and vegetable oil, 7 cents to $2.91 for a 32-ounce bottle.
Moreover, flour decreased 5 cents to $2.57 for a 5-pound bag; Russet potatoes decreased 5 cents to $3.01 for a 5-pound bag; sliced deli ham decreased 4 cents to $5.20 per pound; and shredded cheddar decreased 3 cents to $4.26 per pound.
Several items showing an increase in retail price from quarter-to-quarter, however, showed year-to-year increases: sirloin tip roast, up 11 percent; eggs, up 9 percent; bagged salad, up 8 percent; and apples, up 2 percent.
Jim McVeigh, store manager at Save-A-Lot in southwestern Cedar Rapids, Iowa, said “bacon is definitely up” in price. “They’ve possibly reached a ceiling height on that.” As a result, he said some grocers in town “seem to be pushing turkey bacon like it’s going out of style. (But) regular bacon is holding steady.”
He said his store, which remodeled shortly after the 2008 flood, is selling one-pound packages of bacon for $3.49, compared to $7.99 at a local competing store. “I don’t understand how we can have a shortage on bacon when we’re killing” more hogs, he observed.
Eggs are also high, which McVeigh said may be due to higher feed costs.
The USDA said Americans spend just under 10 percent of their disposable annual income on food, the lowest average of any country in the world. “When I can save someone folding money and not coins, that says something,” McVeigh added.