FOOD PRICES CLIMB 2.3 PERCENT IN OCTOBER
MONTGOMERY, Ala.-- Demand for meat products continued to outpace supply in October, pushing Alabama food prices 2.3 percent higher. According to the Alabama Farmers Federation's monthly food price survey the average cost of 20 basic market basket items was $45.58 this month, up $1.02 from September.
Experts say low inventories of fed cattle in the United States coupled with the closing of U.S. borders to Canadian live cattle in May 2003 have kept retail beef prices high. Furthermore, some say demand could increase even more in the coming months if Japan and Korea open their markets to American beef. Both countries banned U.S. beef exports following the diagnosis last December of a single case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in a Washington state dairy cow.
At Alabama supermarkets, beef prices were up 3.4 percent in October, with T-bone steaks ringing in at $8.31 a pound, up 30 cents. Ground beef was up 18 cents to $2.11 a pound, but chuck roasts were a penny cheaper at $3.14 a pound. Tight supplies also affected pork prices as the price of chops jumped 14 cents to $3.59 a pound. Boston butts were more expensive at $1.74 a pound, up 25 cents, but bacon was down a nickel at $3.40 a pound. Meanwhile, poultry prices remained mixed with shoppers saving 3 cents on whole fryers, which averaged 97 cents a pound, while chicken breasts were up 7 cents to $2.18 a pound. Eggs continued to be a good buy at 88 cents a dozen, down 3 cents.
On the produce aisle, cooler weather brought an end to the tomato harvest in many parts of the country, driving prices 22 cents higher to $1.52 a pound. Other surveyed items were basically unchanged, however, as lettuce averaged $1.07 a head, down a penny. Red potatoes were up 1 cent to 65 cents a pound, and sweet potatoes were 2 cents cheaper at 87 cents a pound.
In the dairy case, prices continued to stabilize, despite a big jump in the price of ice cream. A half-gallon of the cool treat averaged $3.29 this month, up 35 cents, but a half-gallon of milk was a penny cheaper at $2.07. Butter also was a bargain at $3.33 a pound, down 7 cents.
Regional reports collected by volunteer shoppers around the state Oct. 1-10 showed the market basket averaged $42.29 in northwest Alabama, $44.95 in the central counties, $46.66 in the northeast corner of the state, and $47.92 in south Alabama.