HIGHER PRODUCE PRICES OFFSET SAVINGS ON MEAT
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Seasonal price increases for fresh produce offset savings on meat and poultry in November as Alabama food prices rose 1.1 percent. According to the Alabama Farmers Federation's monthly food price survey, the cost of 20 basic market basket items averaged $51.05, up 58 cents from October.
A 40-cent-per-head jump in the price of lettuce accounted for the biggest change among surveyed items with the warm-season crop averaging $1.75 a head. Tomatoes were up 15 cents to $1.80 a pound, while potatoes posted modest gains. Red potatoes averaged 74 cents a pound, up 4 cents, while sweet potatoes were 90 cents a pound, up 6 cents.
Prices for red meat and poultry fell with chicken breasts and T-bone steaks being the best buys. On average, chicken breasts sold for $2.08 a pound, down 20 cents, and steaks were down 19 cents to $8.27 a pound. Whole fryers dropped a penny to $1.15 a pound, while ground beef was down 9 cents to $2.10 a pound, and chuck roasts were down 8 cents to $3.09 a pound. Pork prices were mixed with pork chops selling for $3.28 a pound, down 6 cents, while bacon was up 7 cents to $3.78 a pound. Boston butts were slightly less expensive at $1.72 a pound, down 2 cents, but eggs were up 6 cents to $1.59 a dozen.
In the dairy case, prices rebounded after falling in October. A half-gallon of milk averaged $3.16, up 18 cents, and butter was up 7 cents to $3.40 a pound. Brand name ice cream was unchanged at $4.21 a half-gallon.
Nationally, the American Farm Bureau Federation reported Thanksgiving Day dinner for 10 averaged $42.26, a $4.16 price increase from last year's average of $38.10. The cost of a 16-pound turkey, at $17.63 or roughly $1.10 per pound, reflects an increase of 12 cents per pound, or a total of $1.93 per turkey compared to 2006. This is the largest contributor to the overall increase in the cost of the 2007 Thanksgiving dinner.
"The inventory of birds in cold storage is relatively small this year. This has helped drive up the average retail turkey price," said Jim Sartwelle, an AFBF economist. "The tremendous increase in energy costs for transportation and processing over the past year also is a key factor behind higher retail prices at the grocery store."
Meanwhile, regional reports collected by volunteer shoppers in Alabama Nov. 1-10 showed the state's market basket averaged $50.27 in northeast Alabama, $50.39 in the northwest corner of the state, $51.58 in the central counties and $53.62 in south Alabama.
While food prices - including the Thanksgiving meal - have increased in the last 20 years, the Farm Bureau report notes that "real" food costs have actually declined 9 percent since 1986, when adjusted for inflation. A complete breakdown of the Farm Bureau's Thanksgiving food price survey is available at www.fb.org.