Survey: Bringing home the bacon not easy when bacon prices drop

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WASHINGTON – Retail prices for food at the supermarket decreased slightly in the fourth quarter of 2006, according to the latest American Farm Bureau Federation Marketbasket Survey.
The informal survey shows the total cost of 16 basic grocery items in the fourth quarter of 2006 was $39.69, down about 3 percent or $1.40 from the third quarter of 2006.
Of the 16 items surveyed, 13 decreased and three increased in average price compared to the 2006 third-quarter survey. Compared to one year ago, the overall cost for the marketbasket items is up about 2 percent.
Decreases. A 5-pound bag of flour and a 10-ounce box of toasted oat cereal both showed the largest decrease, down 28 cents to $1.60 and $2.82, respectively. The per-pound price for bacon and whole chicken fryers dropped 19 cents, to $3.20 and $1.19, respectively.
Other items that decreased in price: red delicious apples, down 15 cents to $1.36 per pound; mayonnaise, down 14 cents to $3.23 per 32-ounce jar; Russet potatoes, down 14 cents to $2.31 per 5-pound bag; pork chops, down 13 cents to $3.19 per pound; ground chuck, down 11 cents to $2.54 per pound; vegetable oil, down 9 cents to $2.48 per 32-ounce bottle; sirloin tip roast, down 8 cents to $3.62 per pound; corn oil, down 7 cents to $2.63 per 32-ounce bottle; and whole milk, down 6 cents to $2.97 per gallon.
Increases. Items that increased in price from the third quarter of 2006 were: cheddar cheese, up 27 cents to $3.79 per pound; bread, up 14 cents to $1.58 for a 20-ounce loaf; and large eggs, up 10 cents to $1.18 per dozen.
“Consumers likely noticed several price drops at the meat case toward the end of 2006,” said American Farm Bureau Federation economist Jim Sartwelle.
“Red meat production ran above recent historic levels during the fourth quarter. This led to lower prices at the retail level for beef and pork, both in early November when the survey was conducted, and later in the quarter when the traditional post-holiday drop in demand took place.”
Dollar shares. The share of the average food dollar that America’s farm and ranch families receive has dropped over time, despite gradual increases in retail grocery prices.
“Going back to the mid-1970s, farmers received an average of about one-third of consumer retail food expenditures. That figure has decreased steadily over time and is now just 22 percent, according to Agriculture Department statistics,” Sartwelle said.
Using that percentage across the board, the farmer’s share of this quarter’s $39.69 marketbasket total would be $8.73.
According to Agriculture Department statistics, Americans spend just under 10 percent of their disposable income on food annually, the lowest average of any country in the world.

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