Grocery bills get a little bit smaller


WASHINGTON — Retail food prices at the supermarket dropped slightly for the second consecutive quarter, according to the latest American Farm Bureau Federation Marketbasket Survey.

The informal survey shows the total cost of 16 food items that can be used to prepare a meal was $47.41, down about 5.5 percent or $2.80 from the fourth quarter of 2008. Of the 16 items surveyed, 11 decreased and five increased in average price compared to the prior quarter.

The overall cost of the marketbasket of foods in the first quarter dropped just under 1 percent compared to a year ago.

Biggest drop

Shredded cheddar cheese, milk and vegetable oil showed the largest retail price declines and together account for most of the decrease in average price of the overall marketbasket.

Shredded cheese dropped 70 cents to $4.24 per pound; milk dropped 67 cents to $3.15 per gallon; and vegetable oil dropped 38 cents to $2.79 for a 32-oz. bottle.

“Continued weak demand overseas for U.S. dairy products combined with increased on-farm production are behind the softening retail prices for shredded cheese and whole milk,” said Jim Sartwelle, an AFBF economist.

More decreases

Other items that decreased in price were: Russet potatoes, down 31 cents to $3.05 per bag; eggs, down 28 cents to $1.50 per dozen; toasted oat cereal, down 22 cents to $2.91 for a 9-oz. box; apples, down 16 cents to $1.35 per pound; boneless chicken breasts, down 12 cents to $3.38 per pound; bacon, down 11 cents to $3.26 per pound; white bread, down 11 cents to $1.77 for a 20-oz. loaf; and orange juice, down 2 cents to $3 for a half-gallon.

Five items increased slightly in price this quarter: ground chuck and sliced deli ham, up 8 cents to $2.94 and $4.94 per pound, respectively; sirloin tip roast and flour, up 5 cents to $3.99 per pound and $2.51 for a 5-pound bag, respectively; and American salad, up 2 cents to $2.63 for a 1-pound bag.

New items

New this quarter, Farm Bureau is reporting average retail prices on different foods in the marketbasket with the addition of sliced deli ham, shredded cheddar cheese, chicken breasts, orange juice and bagged salad.
Pork chops, block cheddar cheese, whole chicken fryers, mayonnaise and corn oil were dropped from the survey.

Farm Bureau’s volunteer shoppers have been gathering pricing data on the “new” marketbasket foods for the past year, beginning in the first quarter of 2008.

Buying trend

According to Terry Gilbert, a volunteer shopper and Kentucky farmer who chairs the AFB Women’s Leadership Committee, a trend that shows no signs of slowing down is consumers buying more fruits and vegetables, as well as pre-chopped and partially prepared foods.

The updated marketbasket survey takes that into account and is more contemporary.

According to the federal government, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all food is projected to increase 3 percent to 4 percent in 2009. As retail grocery prices have increased gradually over time, the share of the average food dollar that America’s farm and ranch families receive has dropped.

Using the “food at home and away from home” percentage across-the-board, the farmer’s share of this quarter’s $47.41 market basket would be $9.

AFBF, the nation’s largest general farm organization, has been conducting the informal quarterly marketbasket survey of retail food price trends since 1989.

Spend 10 percent

According to USDA, Americans spend just under 10 percent of their disposable annual income on food, the lowest average of any country in the world.


Up-to-date agriculture news in your inbox!

Previous articleCan you afford your farm?
Next articleCut the Coke to cut the fat



We are glad you have chosen to leave a comment. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated according to our comment policy.

Receive emails as this discussion progresses.