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Meats send food prices rising, according to survey

MADISON – Smaller herds, tight supplies and high international demand for meat and dairy have sent retail food prices rising at Wisconsin supermarkets according to the latest Wisconsin Farm Bureau Marketbasket Survey.

“Historically high beef and pork prices are the reason that our survey found a nearly 4 percent increase in grocery prices since spring,” said Amy Manske, Communications Coordinator for the Wisconsin Farm Bureau.

Survey results

Farm Bureau’s informal survey shows the total cost of 16 food items that can be used to prepare one or more meals was $51.97. It marked a 3.9 percent increase since March when the survey items averaged $50.04.

Over the last year, the survey’s price increased about 3.6 percent.

Of the 16 items surveyed, 11 increased in price while five decreased in price compared to Farm Bureau’s spring survey.

The biggest price swing in the survey was for sirloin tip roast. It increased more than 11 percent since spring of 2014. Its average price was $4.85 a pound. Now its average is $5.39 a pound.

“Meat is really the story of 2014 when you talk food prices,” Manske explained. “Our survey also saw increases for ground chuck, bacon and chicken breast.”

“Prolonged periods of drought in western and southern states took a toll on our nation’s cattle herd,” Manske said. “The number of cattle in the United States has shrunk to a size we have not seen in 60 years. Coupled with international strong demand and the tightest meat supplies in a decade, it’s no surprise that meat prices are up.”

Strong international demand has sent dairy prices to historic highs. The price for a pound of shredded mild cheddar cheese increased more than 10 percent since March, to a statewide average of $4.85.

Without the meat and dairy items, food prices have been stagnant to trending lower. Lowering energy prices also would have a calming effect on food prices as well.

Items with the greatest percentage decrease in price were Russet potatoes (a five-pound bag decreased 14.1 percent from $2.34 to $2.01), eggs (one dozen large Grade A fell 8.1 percent from $1.86 to $1.71) and all-purpose flour (a five-pound bag decreased 6.9 percent from $2.47 to $2.30).

Wisconsin survey price is less than national average

Wisconsin’s $51.97 Marketbasket is less than the American Farm Bureau Federation’s national survey of the same 16 food items. AFBF’s survey rang in at $54.26. Despite the lower overall price, five of the 16 items recently surveyed in Wisconsin were higher than the national average.

“There are many factors outside the grocery store that impact prices. Produce, beef, butter prices and other items are impacted in ways that local grocers control,” said Wisconsin Grocers Association President Brandon Scholz. “From weather to inflation, the price of feed and the conditions of our roads, all impact grocery store prices. However, consumers continue to benefit from sales and specials while grocers do what they can to hold the line on prices while offering quality products at competitive prices.”

Farmer’s share is just $8.32

Over the last three decades retail grocery prices have gradually increased while the share of the average dollar spent on food that farm families receive has dropped. In the mid-1970s, farmers received about one-third of consumer retail food expenditures in grocery stores and restaurants. Since then that figure has decreased steadily and is now about 16 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Using that percentage across the board, the farmer’s share of this quarter’s $51.97 grocery bill would be $8.32.

Despite higher prices, the USDA says Americans will still spend approximately 10 percent of their disposable annual income on food, the lowest average in the world.

The Marketbasket survey is a quarterly look at the trends in food pricing in Wisconsin in relation to changing farm prices, weather and wholesale and retail food marketing. Members of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau collected price samples of 16 basic food items in 24 communities across Wisconsin in September.