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October 16, 2003   Email to Friend 

Jeff Helms
(334) 613-4212
October 16, 2003

MONTGOMERY, Ala. Higher prices for beef, poultry and eggs pushed Alabama food prices five-tenths of 1 percent higher in October, according to the Alabama Farmers Federation's monthly food price survey. The survey, which was conducted Oct. 1-8 by volunteer shoppers across the state, showed the average cost of 20 basic market basket items was $40.05, up 20 cents from September and up $2.11 from a year ago.

Record-high prices for feeder calves and market cattle continued to place upward pressure on meat prices this month with retail beef prices increasing 5.5 percent. T-bone steaks were up 59 cents to $7.21 a pound, and chuck roasts were up 15 cents to $2.76 a pound. Shoppers still could find bargains at the meat case, however, as the average price of ground beef fell 14 cents to $1.60 a pound.

Meanwhile, egg prices were up for the third consecutive month. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, poor profitability in 1999-2002 coupled with stricter guidelines for egg production have caused tighter per-capita egg supplies. As a result, wholesale egg prices hit a new high in August at 93.8 cents per dozen (grade A large). In Alabama, retail egg prices averaged $1.15 per dozen in October, an increase of 20 cents since July.

Poultry prices also were higher this month with whole fryers selling for 94 cents a pound, up 8 cents, while chicken breasts averaged $1.78 a pound, up 23 cents. In the meat case, pork was the best buy in October as bacon prices dropped a quarter to $2.85 a pound. Boston butts were down 4 cents to $1.30 a pound, but pork chops were slightly more expensive at $3.18 a pound, up 7 cents.

On the produce aisle, prices plunged 8.4 percent due mainly to savings on potatoes. Red potatoes averaged 54 cents a pound, down 19 cents, while sweet potatoes were a dime cheaper at 81 cents a pound. Lettuce prices also retreated this month after a 21-cent jump in September. Statewide, lettuce averaged $1.08 a head, down 12 cents. In the dairy case, prices were basically unchanged as a half-gallon of milk averaged $1.87 while a half-gallon of ice cream brought $2.97, both up a penny. Butter prices were down 7 cents to $2.48 a pound.

Regional reports collected around the state showed the market basket averaged $37.87 in northwest Alabama, $39.99 in the northeast corner of the state, $40.59 in the central counties and $41.57 in south Alabama.

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