Wisconsin food prices remain stable

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MADISON — Food prices in 2012 can be summed up in one word — stable.

That’s the finding of the latest Wisconsin Farm Bureau Marketbasket Survey. The informal survey shows the average cost of 16 food items that can be used to prepare one or more meals was $49.34. The cost for the survey items rose just 2 percent compared to one year ago. The survey’s price moderated since September by dropping 26 cents, or about a half percent.

“Stable energy prices resulted in slight changes to food prices throughout 2012,” said Casey Langan, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation spokesman. “The uneventful year marked a stark difference from the volatility of the last couple years.”

“Looking forward, expected tighter supplies of meat and dairy products could result in higher prices this year,” Langan said.

Of the 16 items surveyed, eight items increased in price and eight decreased in price compared to the prior quarter. Items with decreases in price of 7 percent or more were all-purpose flour (a 5-pound bag fell 7 percent, $2.55 to $2.36), bacon (1-pound fell 8 percent, $4.49 to $4.13) and Russet potatoes (a 5-pound bag fell 10 percent, $1.92 to $1.72).

Items with increases in price of 7 percent or more were white bread (a 20-ounce loaf increased 7 percent, $1.52 to $1.63) and whole milk (a gallon, increased 7 percent from $3.42 to 3.68).

Over the course of 2012, 12 items increased in price, while four decreased.

The largest percentage decrease in price was for a 5-pound bag of Russet potatoes: a decrease of 47 cents (21 percent). A large supply of potatoes following a good production year has driven prices downward for consumers.

The largest percentage increase in price over the past year was for Red Delicious Apples: an 11 percent increase (from $1.40 to $1.56 per pound). Apple yields were down in 2012 due to a killing frost in April following record-high temperatures in March.

Wisconsin’s $49.34 Marketbasket is $1.20 less than the American Farm Bureau Federation’s national survey of the same 16 food items. AFBF’s survey rang in at $50.54. Despite the lower overall price, four of the 16 items recently surveyed in Wisconsin were higher than the national average: shredded mild cheddar cheese (40 cents), boneless chicken breast (23 cents), vegetable oil (16 cents) and ground chuck (1 cent).

Retail grocery prices have gradually increased over the last three decades while the share of the average dollar spent on food that farmers 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.

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 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 Appleton, Beloit, Crivitz, De Pere, Eau Claire, Edgerton, Elkhorn, Fond du Lac, Green Bay, Hillsboro, Lancaster, Manitowoc, Marshfield, Medford, Menomonie, Mequon, New Berlin, New London, New Richmond, Oconto Falls, Rice Lake, Richland Center, Saukville, Shawano, Sparta, Stevens Point, Waterford, Watertown, West Allis and West Bend.

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