"BEEF, POULTRY PRICES PUSH JANUARY GROCERY BILL HIGHER"
"MONTGOMERY, Ala." Higher prices for beef and poultry took a toll at the supermarket register in January as food prices edged 1.4 percent higher. According to the Alabama Farmers Federation's monthly food price survey, the cost of 20 basic market basket items averaged $37.82, up 52 cents from last month, and up $2.60 or 7.4 percent from a year ago.
Beef prices were up for the third straight month with T-bone steaks selling for $6.49 a pound, up a quarter, and ground beef ringing in at $1.61 a pound, up 12 cents. Overall, beef prices were 4.2 percent higher than in December. Pork prices, however, fell about 1 percent with pork chops bringing $2.67 pound, down 16 cents. Bacon also was a good buy at $2.63 a pound, down 11 cents.
At the poultry case, January prices were mixed as higher prices for chicken breasts more than offset savings on whole fryers. Food price surveyors reported chicken breasts averaged $2.03 a pound, up 24 cents, while fryers were 86 cents a pound, down 6 cents. Eggs were $1.17 a dozen, up 18 cents.
Meanwhile, cold weather and skyrocketing energy costs are taking a bite out of poultry farmers' profits. According to Jimmy Carlisle, director of the Federation's poultry division, it's costing some growers up to three times more to heat their poultry houses this year. Carlisle does not expect that to affect retail prices, however, because chickens are generally produced by contract growers, who absorb the production costs.
On the produce aisle, savings on tomatoes and lettuce contributed to a 9.4 percent drop in the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables. Tomatoes averaged $1.35 a pound, down 14 cents, while lettuce was a quarter cheaper at 91 cents a head. In the dairy case, a half-gallon of ice cream was 12 cents higher at $2.85, while the average prices of milk, cottage cheese and butter were basically unchanged.
Regional reports collected from around the state Jan. 2-7 showed the market basket averaged $36.48 in northwest Alabama, $36.52 in northeast Alabama, $37.19 in central Alabama and $38.20 in south Alabama.