Lower retail prices for several foods, including eggs, ground chuck, sirloin tip roast, chicken breasts and toasted oat cereal resulted in a significant decrease in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Spring Picnic Market basket Survey.

“As expected due to lower farm-gate prices, we have seen continued declines in retail prices for livestock products including eggs, beef, chicken, pork and cheese,” said John Newton, AFBF’s director of market intelligence.  

The informal survey showed the total cost of 16 food items that can be used to prepare one or more meals was $50.03, down $3.25 or about 6 percent compared to a year ago. Of the 16 items surveyed, 11 decreased, four increased and one remained the same in average price.

Egg prices are down sharply from a year ago and also are down slightly from the third quarter of 2016.

“Egg prices continue to move back toward long-run average prices following the bird flu of 2014/15,” said Newton. “The Agriculture Department is currently monitoring bird flu detection in the Southeast U.S. If detections continue, retail poultry prices could feel an impact due to lower exports or changes in supply,” he said.  “As farm-gate prices for livestock products have declined and remained lower, prices in the retail meat case have become more competitive.”

Montana prices followed the price decline and in some cases were even below the national  average including eggs, chicken breasts, deli ham, potatoes, apples and shredded cheddar cheese.

Montana Farm Bureau shopper Janet Krob noted, “All of the moisture we’ve had means a wonderful growing season for Montana crops as well as grass for Montana livestock. Be sure to thank farmers and ranchers when you get together for spring holiday gatherings. Remember, they care for our land and animals 24/7/365 while providing affordable, nutritious food for all of us.”  

The year-to-year direction of the market basket survey tracks closely with the federal government’s Consumer Price Index (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cpi.nr0.htm) 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, the nation’s largest general farm organization, began conducting informal quarterly market basket surveys of retail food price trends in 1989. The series includes a spring picnic survey, summer cookout survey, fall harvest survey and Thanksgiving dinner cost 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 117 shoppers in 31 states participated in the latest survey, conducted in March.