Shoppers paid slightly more for food at the grocery store at the beginning of 2013, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation Semi-Annual Marketbasket Survey, released Thursday.
The informal survey shows the total cost of 16 food items that can be used to prepare one or more meals was $51.54, up $1 or about 2% compared to the fourth quarter of 2012. Of the 16 items surveyed, 11 increased and five decreased in average price compared to the prior quarter.
"Overall, food prices have remained remarkably stable over the past two or three quarters, particularly given the run-up in energy prices over this most recent quarter," said John Anderson, AFBF's deputy chief economist.
Higher retail prices for meat items such as sliced deli ham, boneless chicken breasts and ground chuck, among other foods, resulted in a slight increase.
"Meat prices rose in price a bit more than most other items in the first quarter, but for the basket as a whole, price changes have been fairly modest," Anderson explained. "Looking ahead, we expect food prices to rise by 3 to 4% during 2013, which is slightly higher than the average rate of inflation over the past 10 years."
Items showing retail price increases included deli ham, up 50 cents to $5.39 per pound; flour, up 25 cents to $2.62 for a 5-pound bag; chicken breasts, up 22 cents to $3.32 per pound; ground chuck, up 19 cents to $3.74 per pound; shredded cheddar cheese, up 16 cents to $4.47 per pound; bagged salad, up 12 cents to $2.71 per pound; sirloin tip roast, up 11 cents to $4.63 per pound; bacon, up 7 cents to $4.28 per pound; Russet potatoes, up 7 cents to $2.69 for a 5-pound bag; vegetable oil, up 6 cents to $2.92 for a 32-ounce bottle; and apples, up 3 cents to $1.63 per pound.
These items showed modest retail price decreases: whole milk, down 27 cents to $3.46 per gallon; white bread, down 20 cents to $1.65 for a 20-ounce loaf; orange juice, down 13 cents to $3.28 per half-gallon; toasted oat cereal, down 12 cents to $2.91 for a 9-ounce box; and eggs, down 6 cents to $1.84 per dozen.
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, AFBF says.
"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%, according to the Agriculture Department's revised Food Dollar Series," Anderson said.
Using the "food at home and away from home" percentage across-the-board, the farmer's share of this $51.54 marketbasket would be $8.25.
AFBF conducted an informal quarterly marketbasket survey of retail food price trends from 1989 to 2012. In 2013, the marketbasket series was updated to include two semi-annual surveys of "everyday" food items, a summer cookout survey and the annual Thanksgiving survey.
According to USDA, Americans spend just under 10% of their disposable annual income on food, the lowest average of any country in the world. A total of 86 shoppers in 24 states participated in the latest survey, conducted in March.