INCREASED BEEF DEMAND PUSHES PRICES HIGHER
MONTGOMERY Surging beef and pork prices pushed Alabama grocery bills higher this month despite savings on poultry and dairy products. According to the Alabama Farmers Federation's monthly food price survey, the average cost of 20 basic market basket items was $36.12, up 1.9 percent from March.
Beef led the price rally as America's strong economy and new heat-and-serve beef products continued to spark demand among shoppers. Earlier this year, beef industry experts reported that beef demand rose 3.5 percent last year--the first such increase in 20 years. This month, Alabama beef prices were up 8.5 percent with T-bone steaks selling for $6.28 a pound, up 47 cents, while chuck roasts averaged $2.29 a pound, up 28 cents. Pork prices also were 4 percent higher this month, mainly due to a 23-cent-per-pound jump in bacon prices.
Meanwhile, poultry prices retreated 6.6 percent after climbing 7 percent in March. Chicken breasts were the best buy at $1.68 a pound, down 16 cents, and fryers were 2 cents lower at 87 cents a pound. Dye-hard Easter egg hunters also enjoyed savings on eggs this month as prices fell 3.9 percent to 73 cents a dozen.
On the produce aisle, expected seasonal savings continued to elude shoppers this month as prices rebounded 7.3 percent. Tomatoes were 8 cents higher at $1.19 a pound, while red potatoes averaged 61 cents a pound, up 7 cents.
Ice cream and cheese lovers, however, didn't have to look far to find a bargain as dairy prices hit a nine-month low, down 3.3 percent from March. For April, shoppers enjoyed the biggest savings on cottage cheese, which averaged $1.70 a pound, down 10 cents. Butter was 8 cents cheaper at $2.14 a pound, and ice cream was $2.64 a half gallon, also down 8 cents.
Regional reports collected from around the state April 1-7 showed the market basket total averaged $35.50 in northwest Alabama, $35.70 in central Alabama, $36.37 in south Alabama, and $36.85 in northeast Alabama.