Food Prices Slide Downward in Wisconsin
Lower retail prices for several foods, including eggs, whole milk, cheddar cheese, chicken breast, sirloin tip roast and ground chuck resulted in a decrease in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Fall Harvest Marketbasket Survey.
The informal survey shows the total cost of 16 food items that can be used to prepare one or more meals was $49.70, down $4.40 or 8 percent compared to a survey conducted a year ago. Of the 16 items surveyed, 13 decreased and three increased in average price.
“Strong global supplies have depressed the prices that Wisconsin farmers receive for the crops and livestock they raise,” said Casey Langan, spokesman of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation. “Coupled with steady energy prices and softening demand from foreign countries, this means lower costs for grocery shoppers.”
Egg prices dropped significantly due to production recovering well from the 2014 avian influenza, according to John Newton, AFBF director, market intelligence. Milk prices are down substantially from prior years, particularly compared to record-highs in 2014, due to the current global dairy surplus.
“For all commodities in agriculture there is a lot of product on hand and prices are depressed,” Newton explained.
The following items showed retail price decreases from a year ago:
- eggs, down 51 percent to $1.48 dozen
- chicken breast, down 16 percent to $2.86 per pound
- sirloin tip roast, down 11 percent to $5.04 per pound
- shredded cheddar, down 10 percent to $4.09 per pound
- whole milk, down 10 percent to $2.84 per gallon
- ground chuck, down 9 percent to $4.13 per pound
- toasted oat cereal, down 9 percent to $2.80 for a nine-ounce box
- vegetable oil, down 9 percent to $2.39 for a 32-ounce bottle
- flour, down 7 percent to $2.21 per five-pound bag
- white bread, down 7 percent to $1.58 for a 20-ounce loaf
- orange juice, down 5 percent to $3.26 per half-gallon
- bacon, down 3 percent to $4.40 per pound
- sliced deli ham, down less than 1 percent to $5.45
These items showed moderate retail price increases compared to a year ago:
- bagged salad, up 16 percent to $2.85 per pound
- apples, up 10 percent to $1.59 per pound
- potatoes, up 3 percent to $2.73 for a 5-pound bag
“Dry conditions in the Northeast and Northwest the last few years likely contributed to smaller supplies and higher retail prices for apples,” Newton said. In addition, he said salad prices are up due to lower output in the West, particularly in California and Arizona.
Price checks of alternative milk and egg choices not included in the overall marketbasket survey average revealed the following: 1/2 gallon regular milk, $1.86; 1/2 gallon organic milk, $4.26; and one dozen “cage-free” eggs, $3.48.
One year ago, one dozen Grade A eggs averaged $2.94. That historically-high price was a result of a tight egg market after Avian influenza led to the death of millions of laying hens. Since then, egg producers have repopulated their flocks and increased egg production.
“The 98 cents per dozen that Wisconsin shoppers paid (on average) in September marks a return to normalcy for the egg market,” Langan said. “The growing inventory of beef cattle has resulted in lower prices for consumers,” Langan said. “The survey’s average price for a pound of ground chuck dropped from $4.74 to $3.99 (15.8 percent) during the past year.”
An over-supply of milk globally had a dampening effect on the price Wisconsin dairy farmers received for their milk (the lowest since 2009). The reduced price has been passed on to the consumer. Shredded mild cheddar cheese decreased by 5.3 percent (from $4.30 to $4.07 per pound) during the past year. Likewise, a gallon of whole milk dropped by 15 cents (from $3.47 to $3.32) or 4.3 percent during that time period.
The year-to-year direction of the marketbasket survey tracks with the federal government’s Consumer Price Index report for food at home. As retail grocery prices have increased gradually over time, the share of the average food dollar that America’s farm and ranch families receive has dropped.
“Through the mid-1970s, farmers received about one-third of consumer retail food expenditures for food eaten at home and away from home, on average. Since then, that figure has decreased steadily and is now about 17 percent, according to the Agriculture Department’s revised Food Dollar Series,” Newton said.
Using the “food at home and away from home” percentage across-the-board, the farmer’s share of this $49.70 marketbasket would be approximately $8.45.
AFBF, the nation’s largest general farm organization, began conducting informal quarterly marketbasket surveys of retail food price trends in 1989. The series includes a Spring Picnic survey, Summer Cookout survey, Fall Harvest survey and Thanksgiving survey.
According to USDA, Americans spend just under 10 percent of their disposable annual income on food, the lowest average of any country in the world. A total of 59 shoppers in 26 states participated in the latest survey, conducted in September.