DECEMBER FOOD PRICES BASICALLY UNCHANGED FROM LAST MONTH
"Montgomery, Ala." Savings on pork and produce helped to offset higher prices for beef, poultry and dairy products this month as food prices were basically unchanged from November. According to the Alabama Farmers Federation's monthly food price survey, the cost of 20 basic market basket items averaged $37.30, up a nickel from last month, but up 3.5 percent from the same period last year.
Although pork prices dropped 4.6 percent in December, increased demand for pork has fueled an upward trend in prices that caused Christmas hams to cost slightly more this holiday season, said Alabama Pork Producers Director Brian Hardin.
"The average cost of a whole ham was $1.42 a pound this year, up 4 cents from a year ago," Hardin said. "The increase in pork prices is due mostly likely to a strong economy, which has resulted in shoppers buying more meat. Beef prices also have been up, making pork a better value for cost-conscious consumers."
Hardin added that families can enjoy their ham for the holidays without a twinge of guilt, thanks to the leaner cuts of pork now available in supermarkets.
"Farmers and processors have responded to Americans' health concerns in recent years by producing hogs with less fat," Hardin said. "Today's pork is 31 percent lower in fat, 14 percent lower in calories and 10 percent lower in cholesterol than in 1983."
As for beef, shoppers saw prices increase for the second straight month in December. Chuck roasts were $2.20 a pound, up 16 cents, and T-bone steaks were $6.24 a pound, up 2 cents. Poultry prices also were up 3.8 percent with chicken breasts selling for $1.79 a pound, up 6 cents. Eggs were 99 cents a dozen, up four cents.
On the produce aisle, tomato prices retreated to $1.49 a pound after climbing 53 cents a pound last month. That helped push fruit and vegetable prices 2 percent lower. Sweet potatoes were the best buy at 63 cents a pound, down 9 cents, while lettuce was 18 cents higher at $1.16 a head.
Meanwhile, Santa's milk and cookies will be slightly more expensive to prepare this year as dairy prices edged 1.8 percent higher. Milk was up a penny to $1.74 a half-gallon, and butter was 24 cents a pound higher at $2.63.
Regional reports collected from around the state Dec. 1-7 showed the market basket averaged $36.38 in south Alabama, $36.78 in central Alabama, $37.33 in northwest Alabama and $37.95 in northeast Alabama.