ALABAMA FOOD PRICES HIGHER IN MAY
MONTGOMERY, Ala.-- Higher prices for meat and poultry fueled a 2.8 percent increase in Alabama grocery bills this month, according to the Alabama Farmers Federation's monthly food price survey. The survey, which was conducted by volunteer shoppers throughout the state May 1-7, showed the cost of 20 basic market basket items averaged $45.02, up $1.21 from April and up $6.30 from a year ago.
Experts say the steady increase in food prices in recent months is analogous to a "perfect storm," where multiple economic factors combined to generate record-high prices for meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products. Federation Commodity Department Director Jim Cravey said the popularity of low-carbohydrate diets have spurred increased demand for meat and eggs at a time when farmers had reduced production of those foods due to extremely low prices during previous years. In addition, increased worldwide demand for corn and soybeans as well as disease problems in Brazil have pushed feed prices higher. Add skyrocketing fuel costs to the mix, and Cravey said you have a recipe for higher food prices.
"Although this may look like a windfall for farmers, they only receive a small portion of the retail price of food," Cravey said. "Meanwhile, higher fuel and feed prices increase their cost of production, which cuts into their already thin profit margins."
In Alabama, pork prices were 5.2 percent higher in May with pork chops ringing in at $3.27 a pound, up 35 cents. Boston butts were up 8 cents a pound to $1.60, but bacon was slightly cheaper at $3.03 a pound, down 4 cents. Beef prices jumped 5.7 percent this month after a 6.5-percent increase in April. T-bone steaks averaged $8.38 a pound at Alabama supermarkets, up 60 cents, while ground beef was up 17 cents to $1.99 a pound. Chuck roasts, however, were a better buy at $3.09 a pound, down 4 cents.
Bargain hunters were glad to see the price of whole fryers unchanged from a month ago at $1 a pound, but the price of chicken breasts edged higher for the second month in a row to $2.21 a pound, up 7 cents. Meanwhile, egg prices retreated 22 percent in May to $1.15 a dozen, down 32 cents.
On the produce aisle, higher prices for tomatoes contributed to an overall increase of 4 percent for fruits and vegetables. Across the state, tomatoes averaged $1.66 a pound, up 7 cents, and sweet potatoes were 7 cents higher at 84 cents a pound. Lettuce prices were unchanged at $1.04 a head, and red potatoes were up a penny to 72 cents a pound.
In the dairy case, savings on ice cream offset higher prices for milk and butter. A half-gallon of ice cream averaged $3.00, down 40 cents, while a half-gallon of milk was up 14 cents to $2.04. Butter also was more expensive at $3.44 a pound, up 29 cents.
Regional reports collected around the state showed the market basket averaged $42.12 in the northwest corner of the state, $44.67 in the central counties, $45.76 in northeast Alabama and $47.35 in south Alabama.