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Study finds retail food prices dropped but bagged salad prices increased from last year

by Joan Murphy | October 12, 2009
WASHINGTON -- Retail food prices decreased overall for the fourth consecutive quarter, but the prices of bagged salads increased the most since last year, according to a new survey by the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Of the 16 food items tracked in the federation's Marketbasket Survey, nine decreased and seven increased in average price compared to the prior quarter, the group announced Oct. 5.

Shredded cheddar cheese, ground chuck, whole milk, vegetable oil and russet potatoes declined the most in price from quarter to quarter. Russet potatoes dropped 11 cents, to $2.65 for a five-pound bag, the federation said. Other items that decreased were sliced deli ham, chicken breasts, white bread and sirloin tip roast.

But several items went up slightly in price compared to the prior quarter: bacon, orange juice, eggs, toasted oat cereal and flour.

Apples increased five cents, to $1.46 per pound, and bagged salads were up two cents, to $2.77 for a one-pound bag. Compared to one year ago, bagged salad increased the most in price among the items in the basket, up 16 percent.

But compared to last year's retail prices, shoppers are getting a deal: whole milk has decreased 27 percent, cheddar cheese 23 percent, potatoes 22 percent, apples 19 percent, eggs 16 percent, vegetable oil 16 percent, and ground chuck 10 percent in retail price compared to a year ago, "Again this quarter and compared to one year ago, the foods that declined the most in average retail price are among the least-processed items in our marketbasket," said Jim Sartwelle, an economist for the federation.

And while 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, he said.

"Starting in the mid-1970s, farmers received about one-third of consumer retail food expenditures for food eaten at home and away from home, on average," he continued. "That figure has decreased steadily over time and is now just 19 percent, according to [U.S. Department of Agriculture] statistics."