Farm Bureau’s spring market basket survey shows a decrease in food prices |

Farm Bureau’s spring market basket survey shows a decrease in food prices

Shopping basket with groceries , isolated over white background
photographer: Dusanka Visnjican |

For the first time since spring 2014, American Farm Bureau’s Spring Picnic “market basket” survey of grocery store prices has indicated a decrease in food prices. Lower retail prices for several foods, including potatoes, cheese and beef, were responsible for the decrease.

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 or about 1 percent compared to a survey conducted a year ago. Of the 16 items surveyed, ten decreased and six increased in average price.

“Egg prices are up sharply from first quarter of 2015 but are down even more sharply from the third quarter of 2015. This shows the effect of the HPAI (High Pathogenic Avian Influenza) event last year,” said John Anderson, AFBF’s deputy chief economist. “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,” he said.

Prices on the beef items in the marketbasket – ground chuck and sirloin tip roast – are lower compared with the first quarter of 2015, explained 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.

“Even with eggs still a little higher in price, it shouldn’t prevent you from buying some to color for Easter or enjoy for spring brunch.”Janet Krob, Montana Farm Bureau shopper

Interestingly, a lot of the food in Montana was lower than the national average in the survey including Red Delicious apples, russet potatoes, orange juice, bacon, whole milk and sirloin roast. Eggs in Montana were close to the national average price at $2.23 per dozen; however, cage-free eggs were substantially higher in Montana; $4.29 versus $3.27 nationwide

“Even with eggs still a little higher in price, it shouldn’t prevent you from buying some to color for Easter or enjoy for spring brunch,” said Janet Krob, Montana Farm Bureau shopper. “Food is still a great deal with reasonable prices on everything from beef roasts to orange juice to salad and bread.”

Prices on dairy products remained relatively low, with whole milk and shredded cheese hitting lowest prices since 2010 and 2012, respectively.

Nationwide, bagged salad, orange juice, shredded cheddar, whole milk, ground chuck, vegetable oil, white bread, sirloin roast and potatoes saw retail prices decreases from last year at this time. Modest prices increased were seen in eggs, apples, bacon, toasted oat cereal, chicken breasts and deli ham.

“This is a great time of year to celebrate family and enjoy spring, especially with the snow in Montana,” said Krob. “Driving across the state, you know when you see calves and lambs bouncing around that spring is here. Enjoy a spring picnic and be thankful for the bounty of food grown in this country.”

The year-to-year direction of the marketbasket survey tracks closely 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 16 percent, according to the Agriculture Department’s revised Food Dollar Series,” Anderson said. The farmer’s share of this $53.28 marketbasket survey would be $8.52.

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 87 shoppers in 28 states participated in the latest survey, conducted in March.

–Montana Farm Bureau Federation