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December 16, 2003   Email to Friend 

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

Egg prices are at a 20-year high due in part to the popularity of high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets and new regulations limiting the number of chickens that can be housed in one facility.
MONTGOMERY, Ala.-- Alabama shoppers got a reprieve from soaring food prices this month as the cost of 20 basic market basket items fell three-tenths of 1 percent following two consecutive months of increases. According to the Alabama Farmers Federation's monthly food price survey, the market basket averaged $41.87 this month, down 14 cents from November but up $3.70 from a year ago.

Savings on dairy products and retreating beef prices accounted for much of the overall drop in grocery bills, but experts warned that bakers should expect to spend more for eggs this holiday season.

"Retail egg prices are at a 20-year high," said Federation Poultry Director Jimmy Carlisle. "Although several factors contributed to recent increases, national industry representatives say the popularity of high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets have caused a surge in demand. In addition, new restrictions on how many laying hens can be housed in one building have caused a decrease in production."

In Alabama, eggs prices averaged $1.38 a dozen in December up 14 cents from last month and up 38 cents from a year ago.

Meanwhile, beef prices fell 5.5 percent this month after climbing 13.5 percent in November. T-bone steaks averaged $7.41 a pound, down 59 cents, while ground beef was a nickel cheaper at $1.94 a pound. Pork prices, however, were up for the second month in a row with pork chops averaging $2.98 a pound, up 9 cents, and bacon ringing in at $3.06 a pound, up 10 cents. Poultry prices were mixed with chicken breasts averaging $2.04 a pound, up 27 cents, while whole fryers were down 2 cents to 89 cents a pound.

On the produce aisle, seasonal increases for tomatoes and lettuce pushed prices 11.6 percent higher, while sweet potatoes were a bargain at 70 cents a pound, down 4 cents. Tomatoes weighed in at $1.45 a pound, up 4 cents, and lettuce averaged $1.43 a head, up 39 cents.

In the dairy case, a half-gallon of milk was unchanged at $1.90, but a half-gallon of ice cream was up 6 cents to $3.21. Butter continued to be a good buy at $2.21 a pound, down 18 cents.

Regional reports collected by volunteer shoppers across the state Dec. 1-7 showed the market basket averaged $39.66 in northwest Alabama, $41.17 in the central counties, $42.24 in the northeast corner of the state and $44.13 in south Alabama.

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