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February 20, 2009   Email to Friend 

Jeff Helms
(334) 613-4212
February 20, 2009

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Savings on pork and dairy products offset higher prices for vegetables and certain beef products this month as the average cost of 20 basic market basket items showed signs of stabilizing. After a big drop in December, followed by an upward bounce last month, the Alabama Farmers Federation's monthly food price survey averaged $53.71, up 29 cents or five-tenths of 1 percent from January.

Milk, butter and cottage cheese were all less expensive in February, while the average ice cream price was higher. According to surveys collected Feb. 1-10, a half-gallon of milk averaged $3.13, down 6 cents; cottage cheese averaged $2.65 a pound, down a penny, and butter was down 17 cents to $3.79 a pound. Ice cream, however, was up 20 cents to $4.14 a half-gallon. Meanwhile, America's dairy farmers are feeling the pinch as the faltering economy and increased competition from farmers in Europe and New Zealand has caused wholesale milk prices to plummet. The American Farm Bureau Federation reports the price farmers receive for milk is down more than 50 percent from last summer.

Economic worries also are affecting prices at the meat counter, where shoppers are opting for less expensive cuts. This shift in demand has led to savings on some high-value cuts while keeping the price of lower-end items at relatively high levels. For instance, in February, T-bone steaks fell 9 cents to $7.95 a pound, while ground beef was up 18 cents to $2.56 a pound, and chuck roasts were up 7 cents to $3.50 a pound. Pork prices, however, were lower across the board. Pork chops averaged $3.26 a pound, down 3 cents; bacon was down 7 cents to $4.13 a pound, and Boston butts were down 21 cents to $1.65 a pound. Poultry prices edged higher with whole fryers selling for $1.22 a pound, up 4 cents, while chicken breasts were up a penny to $2.12 a pound. Eggs were down 2 cents to $1.71 a dozen.

On the produce aisle, tomatoes and sweet potatoes were both up a nickel to $1.66 a pound and 91 cents a pound, respectively. Red potatoes were up a penny to 90 cents a pound, and lettuce was up 8 cents to $1.53 a head.

Regional reports collected by volunteer shoppers throughout the state showed the market basket averaged $51.61 in northeast Alabama, $52.16 in the northwest corner of the state, $55.17 in the central counties and $57.87 in south Alabama.

This week (Feb. 15-21), America celebrated Food Check-Out Week, which is the time when the average family has earned enough money to pay for their food for an entire year. Alabama Farmers Federation, a member of the American Farm Bureau Federation, conducts the informal monthly market basket survey as a tool to reflect retail food price trends.

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