The Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation's survey of retail food prices at Wisconsin supermarkets shows overall consistency in price, but upward pressure on items like meat, milk and eggs.
"While the overall average price stayed nearly the same over the past year, strong exports and tight supplies for livestock-related products like beef, eggs and dairy have resulted in higher prices for those products," said Casey Langan, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation spokesman.
Farm Bureau's informal survey shows the total cost of 16 food items that can be used to prepare one or more meals was $50.04. It marked an increase of 0.3% (or 13 cents) from March of 2013, and a slight decrease from September of 2013. It continued a period of very little fluctuation in the survey's overall price.
Of the 16 items surveyed, eight increased in price while eight decreased in price compared to the March 2013 survey.
Items with the greatest percentage decrease in price were one pound of bagged salad (more than 14%) and a 20-ounce loaf of white bread (11%).
The biggest price swing in the survey was for a five-pound bag of Russet potatoes. Their price hike of 32% over the last year was largely a readjustment from very low prices brought on by a surplus of potatoes.
The average price of one dozen large, Grade A eggs, increased more than 20% over the past year.
"The price increase is a result of strong sales to Mexico, which has high egg consumption but a reduced domestic supply due to an avian influenza outbreak amongst its poultry flock. To meet Mexico's demand, U.S. egg production has increased the past three years," Langan said.
Also of note, both beef items on the survey (ground chuck and a sirloin tip roast) increased between 6% and 10% in price since last September.
"An uptick in the price of beef was expected. Strong international demand for beef coupled with tight supplies sends a signal to the marketplace to raise prices," Langan said. "The size of our nation's cattle herd has shrunk to its smallest size since the 1950s. This has been brought on by drought conditions throughout the United States and periods of high feed prices."
Less than national average
Wisconsin's $50.04 Marketbasket is less than the American Farm Bureau Federation's national survey of the same 16 food items. AFBF's survey rang in at $53.27.
"While food manufacturer's increase their prices to local grocers, consumers continue to benefit from sales and specials while grocers work to hold the line on prices," said Brandon Scholz, Wisconsin Grocers Association president. "Shoppers are savvy people and they look for the best value and best bargains as food prices change due to outside factors."
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 $50.04 grocery bill would be $8.01.
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 USDA forecasts a 2.5% to 3.5% increase in prices for food (in grocery stores and restaurants) in 2014 compared to the prior year.
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 29 communities across Wisconsin in March. The 16 items in the survey include: apples, potatoes, bagged salad, orange juice, whole milk, shredded cheddar cheese, eggs, Cheerios, white bread, ground chuck, sirloin tip roast, bacon, sliced deli ham, boneless chicken breast, flour and vegetable oil.
Prices collected for survey
The Marketbasket Survey is an informal measure of prices at grocery stores in Wisconsin. The prices reported reflect variations in communities and retailers. The prices reported are not validated by any outside source.
Prices were collected for this survey in the communities of Algoma, Appleton, Ashland, Beloit, Boscobel, Burlington, De Pere, Eau Claire, Edgerton, Ellsworth, Fond du Lac, Hillsboro, Manawa, Manitowoc, Marshfield, Mequon, New London, New Richmond, Platteville, Plover, Rice Lake, Richland Center, Saukville, Shawano, Sparta, Watertown, West Allis, West Bend and West Salem.