Food Price Trends a Mixed Bag

Farm Bureau examines total cost of 16 core food items in market basket study

Market baskets are experiencing a slight dip. And lower retail prices of several foods, including salad, orange juice, shredded cheddar and ground chuck, are at fault, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Spring Picnic Marketbasket Survey.

The informal survey shows the total cost of 16 food items that can be used to prepare one or more meals was $53.28, down 59 cents or about 1% compared to a survey conducted a year ago. Of the 16 items, 10 decreased and six increased in average price. Other decreasing commodities included sirloin tip roast, vegetable oil, white bread, ground chuck, deli ham and orange juice.

“Egg prices are up sharply from first quarter of 2015, a year ago but are down even more sharply from the third quarter of 2015,” said John Anderson, deputy chief economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation. “This shows the effect of the HPAI (highly pathogenic avian influenza) event last year. Prices soared in the latter half of last year, but are working their way back down as increasing production has started to catch up with demand, which has moderated prices somewhat.”

Prices of the beef items in the market basket—ground chuck and sirloin tip roast—are lower compared with first-quarter 2015, said Anderson. Retail beef prices peaked in early 2015 at record high levels. “Since then, a combination of increasing beef production, weaker exports and lower competing meat prices have led to modest price declines,” he said.

Dairy product prices also remain relatively low. At $4.29 for a 1-pound bag, the price of shredded cheddar cheese is at its lowest since third-quarter 2012. The price of whole milk rose almost 3% from the third quarter of last year, but that third-quarter price was the lowest price in the survey since 2010, Anderson said. The price of whole milk remains well below the 2015 first-quarter price.

Items showing retail price decreases from a year ago:

Bagged salad, 11% drop to $2.20 per pound
Orange juice, 8% to $3.21 per half-gallon
Shredded cheddar cheese, 7% to $4.29 per pound
Whole milk, 6% to $3.23 per gallon
Ground chuck, 5% to $4.36 per pound
Vegetable oil, 5% to $2.55 for a 32-ounce bottle
White bread, 3% to $1.69 per 20-ounce loaf
Flour, 1% to $2.49 for a 5-pound bag
Sirloin tip roast, 1% to $5.65 per pound
Potatoes, 1% to $2.71 for a 5-pound bag

Items showing modest retail price increases compared to a year ago:

Apples, 12% increase to $1.64 per pound
Eggs, 9% to $2.23 per dozen
Bacon, 8% to $4.78 per pound
Toasted oat cereal, 6% to $3.31 for a 9-ounce box
Chicken breast, 3% to $3.37 per pound
Deli ham, 1% to $5.57 per pound