Food prices could stablize soon

Published 9:32 pm Thursday, February 26, 2009

Kendra Bolling

While, food prices dropped in December, and rose higher in January, there are signs of stabilizing in February.

“(Prices) have come down slightly,” said Auburn professor and Alabama Extension Specialist Jim Novak. “It has already happened some, but we do expect it to decrease more over time.”

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Still, some Alabamians are paying more for groceries this month, with the cost of 20 basic market basket items climbing just under 1 percent.

Charlene Jordan, co-manager of Ingrams Curb Market said, prices have increased more in the past year, which breaks the trend of a steady prices over the past 50 years, with the exception of the Jimmy Carter administration.

Food products such as pork and dairy offered consumers savings, while vegetables and specific beef products increased.

Milk, butter and cottage cheese were all less expensive during the month of February, with ice cream increasing.

According to a survey conducted by the Alabama Farmers Federation at the beginning of the month, a half-gallon of milk averaged $3.13, which was down 6 cents from January, cottage cheese averaged $2.65 a pound, which was down a mere penny, and butter was down 17 cents to $3.79 a pound.

Still, ice cream was up 20 cents to $4.14 for a half-gallon.

With the state of economy, people are looking to be more frugal with their money.

This has caused a shift in the demand on certain types of meats.

Shoppers have been opting for less expensive cuts of meat such as ground beef.

The demand for the less expensive cuts of beef has driven ground beef prices up 18 cents to $2.56 a pound across the state, with chuck roast increasing 7 cents to $3.50 a pound.

But, the more expensive cuts have decreased in price as T-bone steaks fell 9 cents to $7.95 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.

Local prices seem to be slightly cheaper on poultry as Troy consumers can find whole fryers for 99 cents a pound at the one local store and eggs as little as $1.19 a dozen.

Also, a gallon of milk can be found for as little as $2.88 per gallon, and even ground chuck can be found for $1.79 per pound.

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.

Consumers at the store aren’t the only ones feeling the strain from the ups and downs of grocery prices.

America’s dairy farmers are receiving 50 percent less than what they were receiving last summer, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Novak said stipulations on beef cattle and the overall state of the economy have driven prices up.

Farmers are also feeling the pinch from increased competition from farmers in Europe and New Zealand, which is another reason for the plummeting milk prices.

“People can’t afford to buy things,” Novak said.