MEAT PRICES PUSH GROCERY BILLS HIGHER IN MAY
MONTGOMERY, Ala., May 14 -- Savings on poultry and eggs weren't enough to offset higher prices for beef and pork this month as Alabama food costs increased 1.8 percent. According to the Alabama Farmers Federation's monthly food price survey, the average cost of 20 basic market basket items was $52.06 in May, up 92 cents from a month ago.
Soaring costs for fuel, fertilizer and feed are putting upward pressure on food prices, with the cost of petroleum-based fuels accounting for 44 percent of the increase, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF). In addition, increased meat consumption in China and India, a six-year drought in Australia and speculation in the commodity markets have created a perfect storm for higher food prices. The Farm Bureau reported that expanded use of biofuels also has contributed slightly to the increase in food costs, but has saved consumers as much as 50 cents per gallon on the cost of fuel.
"After many commodities leave the farm gate, high costs for energy, fuel and transportation are added and passed on to the consumer," said AFBF President Bob Stallman. "Increased retail prices can especially be seen on highly processed foods."
At Alabama supermarkets, pork chops were up 12 cents in May to $3.29 a pound; bacon was up a quarter to $3.73 a pound, and Boston butts were up 8 cents to $1.76 a pound. Beef prices also increased with T-bone steaks averaging $8.69 a pound, up 68 cents, while ground beef was up 13 cents to $2.27 a pound. Chuck roasts were up a dime to $3.22 a pound. Meanwhile, poultry and eggs fell this month with a dozen eggs averaging $1.73, down 37 cents. Chicken breasts dropped 17 cents to $2.17 a pound, and whole fryers were slightly less expensive at $1.13 a pound, a difference of 2 cents when compared to April's average.
On the produce aisle, shoppers enjoyed savings on tomatoes, which averaged $1.75 a pound, down 18 cents. Red potatoes also were cheaper at 75 cents a pound, down 6 cents, but lettuce was up 6 cents to $1.37 a head. Sweet potatoes were basically unchanged at 89 cents a pound, up a penny.
In the dairy case, prices were mixed with milk falling 7 cents a half-gallon to $3.08, while a half-gallon of brand-name ice cream was up 12 cents to $4.22. Cottage cheese was down 10 cents to $2.54 a pound, and butter was up a nickel to $3.44 a pound.
Regional reports collected by volunteer shoppers across the state May 1-10 showed the market basket averaged $50.16 in northwest Alabama, $50.55 in the northeast corner of the state, $53.06 in the central counties and $55.80 in south Alabama.
Alabama Farmers Federation, a member of the American Farm Bureau Federation, conducts its informal monthly market basket survey as a tool to reflect retail food price trends. The farmer's share of the retail food dollar has hovered around 25 percent since the 1970s. The larger portion of the consumer's food dollar goes to pay for processing, transporting and marketing food products after they leave the farm.