Higher retail prices for several foods -- including eggs, orange juice, meat products, bagged salad, shredded cheddar and vegetable oil -- resulted in a slight increase in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) "Spring Picnic Marketbasket Survey."
The informal survey showed that the total cost of 16 food items used to prepare one or more meals was $51.05, up $1.02, or 2%, compared to a year ago. Of the 16 items surveyed, nine increased and seven decreased in average price.
“Most of the increase in the market basket was due to higher retail egg prices. Easter eggs are going to be a bit more expensive — 37% higher than a year ago,” AFBF director of market intelligence John Newton said. “U.S. egg exports were up nearly 50% in 2017, while egg production remained flat.”
A bird flu outbreak in South Korea contributed to the increase in U.S. export volumes, AFBF said.
“A surge in egg exports, combined with relatively flat production, led to the strong rise in retail egg prices,” Newton said.
Orange juice was another significant driver for the increase in the basket, rising 24 cents, or 7.5%, the survey found. “A devastating hurricane late last year that came through parts of Florida, where most orange juice comes from, led to growers harvesting the smallest crop in 70 years,” Newton explained.
Several foods showed modest retail price decreases from a year ago: whole milk, white bread, chicken breasts, toasted oat cereal, apples, potatoes and flour.
Milk decreased in price by 6% (20 cents/gal.) due to continued record production volumes in the U.S. and a very competitive beverage case.
The following retail price changes were found versus a year ago:
• Eggs, up 37% to $1.80/doz.
• Orange juice, up 8% to $3.46 per half-gallon;
• Bagged salad, up 4% to $2.42/lb.;
• Deli ham, up 3% to $5.59/lb.;
• Vegetable oil, up 2% to $2.61 for a 32 oz. bottle;
• Shredded cheddar cheese, up 2% to $4.20/lb.;
• Ground chuck, up 2% to $4.01/lb.;
• Bacon, up 2% to $4.75/lb.;
• Sirloin tip roast, up 2% to $5.12/lb.;
• White bread, down 7% to $1.60 per 20 oz. loaf;
• Whole milk, down 6% to $3.07/gal.;
• Chicken breast, down 2% to $3.10/lb.;
• Toasted oat cereal, down 2% to $2.78 for a 9 oz. box;
• Apples, down 1% to $1.53/lb.;
• Flour, down less than 1% to $2.34 for a 5 lb. bag, and
• Potatoes, down less than 1% to $2.67 for a 5 lb. bag.
Price checks of alternative milk and egg choices that were not included in the overall survey average revealed the following: $2.04 for a half-gallon of whole regular milk, $4.24 for a half-gallon of organic milk and $3.53 for a dozen cage-free eggs.
The year-to-year direction of this survey tracks closely with the federal government’s Consumer Price Index for food consumed at home, AFBF said, explaining that 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,” Newton said. "Since then, that figure has decreased steadily and is now about 14.8%," based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s "Food Dollar Series."
AFBF began conducting informal "marketbasket" surveys of retail food price trends in 1989. The current series includes a spring picnic survey, summer cookout survey, fall harvest survey and Thanksgiving dinner cost survey. A total of 93 shoppers in 23 states participated in the latest AFBF survey, which was conducted in March 2018.
According to USDA, Americans spend just under 10% of their disposable annual income on food -- the lowest average of any country in the world.