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September 16, 2009   Email to Friend 

Jeff Helms
(334) 613-4212
September 16, 2009

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Leaner pork prices and savings on dairy products pushed the average cost of 20 basic market basket items lower in September, according to the Alabama Farmers Federation's monthly food price survey. The survey, conducted by volunteer shoppers Sept. 1-10, showed the market basket averaged $50.80, down 64 cents or 1.2 percent from a month earlier.

The description of the H1N1 flu earlier in the year as a type of "swine flu" created havoc for pork producers, as China and other countries banned pork imports from certain regions of the United States and Mexico. Although agriculture and health officials later confirmed that H1N1 is not present in U.S. hogs and is transmitted by human-to-human contact, farmers are still feeling the effects of a downturn in demand. Hog prices fell 44 percent from their peak last year, and while the federal government agreed to buy surplus pork for feed assistance programs, it may take months for the market to fully recover.

Meanwhile, consumers are beginning to see the effect of lower pork prices at the grocery store. This month, bacon was down 33 cents to $3.99 a pound, and pork chops were down 9 cents to $3.33 a pound. Boston butts, however, were up a dime to $1.58 a pound. Beef prices were mixed as T-bone steaks increased to $8.14 a pound, up 3 cents, while ground beef was down a penny to $2.27 a pound. Chuck roasts were up 20 cents to $3.38 a pound. Chicken breasts, though, fell 25 cents to $2.08 a pound, but whole fryers were up 1 cent to $1.17 a pound.

On the produce aisle, tomatoes posted a seasonal increase while other staples were less expensive. On average, tomatoes were $1.55 a pound, up 17 cents; red potatoes were down a penny to 86 cents a pound; and lettuce was down 8 cents to $1.29 a head. Sweet potatoes were unchanged at 96 cents a pound.

In the dairy case, milk was up for the first time since January, but other dairy products continued to decline. A half-gallon of milk averaged $2.73, up 8 cents, but a half-gallon of brand name ice cream was down 19 cents to $3.69. Cottage cheese was down 4 cents to $2.48 a pound, and butter was down 12 cents to $3.34 a pound.

Regional reports collected throughout the state show the market basket averaged $49.35 in northeast Alabama, $49.66 in the northwest corner of the state, $50.88 in the central counties and $54.45 in south Alabama.

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. Today, each U.S. farmer produces enough food for 155 people in the United States and abroad.

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