ECONOMIC SLOWDOWN MEANS LOWER MEAT PRICES FOR SHOPPERS
"MONTGOMERY, Ala." The slowing U.S. economy and sluggish exports helped push beef and poultry prices lower this month resulting in an overall savings of 1.8 percent for Alabama shoppers. According to the Alabama Farmers Federation's monthly food price survey, the cost of 20 basic market basket items averaged $36.99 in February, down 68 cents from last month, but up 4 cents from a year ago.
Experts attributed lower beef and poultry prices to increased supplies created by shrinking overseas markets coupled with a lingering economic slump here at home. National commodity groups encouraged shoppers to take advantage of the savings--predicting that a steady increase in demand would likely cause prices to rebound later this year.
At Alabama supermarkets, the best buy this month was beef, which was down 10.2 percent from January. T-bone steaks averaged $5.41, down 95 cents, while ground beef was 4 cents cheaper at $1.62 a pound. Poultry prices also declined sharply with chicken breasts selling for $1.43 a pound, down 22 cents. Pork prices, meanwhile, were a mixed bag with surveyors reporting savings on bacon and Boston butts while pork chops were 15 cents higher at $3.21 a pound.
On the produce aisle, higher prices for tomatoes more than offset savings on lettuce. Tomatoes averaged $1.41 a pound, up 34 cents, while lettuce was 19 cents cheaper at $1.02 a head. Red potatoes were unchanged at 60 cents a pound, but sweet potatoes were a nickel higher at 70 cents a pound.
In the dairy case, prices edged higher in February after falling steadily for three months. Butter led the charge at $2.66 a pound, up 10 cents, while a half-gallon of milk averaged $1.88, up 3 cents. Eggs also rebounded this month with shoppers paying an average price of 93 cents a dozen, up 13 cents.
Regional reports collected at supermarkets around the state Feb. 1-8 showed the market basket averaged $35.55 in northwest Alabama, $37.08 in the central counties, $37.40 in the northeast corner of the state, and $38.13 in south Alabama.