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August 16, 2002   Email to Friend 

Jeff Helms
August 16, 2002

"MONTGOMERY, Ala." Savings on beef, pork and dairy products were offset by higher poultry prices this month as shoppers saw little change in their overall food bills. According to the Alabama Farmers Federation's monthly food price survey, the average cost of 20 basic market basket items for August was $37.45, down 6 cents from last month and down $1.21 from a year ago.

After rebounding from a three-month slide last month, pork prices were down again in August. Bacon was the best buy at $2.49 a pound, down 20 cents, while pork chops edged 3 cents higher to $3.00 a pound. Beef prices also were down 1 percent with T-bone steaks ringing in at $6.31 a pound, down a nickel. Ground beef was marginally cheaper at $1.54 a pound, down 3 cents, and chuck roasts were down 4 cents to $2.47 a pound.

Slowing production due to the summer heat pushed poultry prices higher this month with chicken breasts averaging $1.79 a pound, up 20 cents. Whole fryers also were up slightly at 88 cents a pound, and eggs were 3 cents higher at 87 cents a dozen. Although experts say it's too early to blame higher poultry prices on the Midwest drought, they predict smaller corn and soybean harvests could mean higher feed prices for hog and poultry producers in the coming months.

According the U.S. Department of Agriculture's latest report, the 2002 corn crop is expected to be 7 percent below last year and the lowest since 1995. Officials expect soybean production to drop 9 percent from last year to 2.63 billion bushels.

Meanwhile, additional savings could be found at the dairy case in August as prices fell for the third straight month. The biggest price break was on ice cream, which averaged $2.66 a half-gallon, down 24 cents. A half-gallon of milk was 2 cents cheaper at $1.76, and butter was up 2 cents at $2.50 a pound. Prices on the produce aisle were basically unchanged except for tomatoes, which were down a dime to $1.11 a pound.

Regional reports collected from around the state Aug. 1-9 show the market basket averaged $35.18 in northwest Alabama, $37.81 in the central counties, $37.88 in the northeast corner of the state and $39.46 in south Alabama.

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