Retail food prices at the supermarket dipped slightly during the third quarter, according to the latest American Farm Bureau Federation Marketbasket Survey.

The informal survey shows the total cost of 16 food items that can be used to prepare one or more meals was $46.17, down $1.03 (or 2 percent) compared to the second quarter of the year. Total average price for the 16 items was down 12 cents compared to last year. Of the 16 items surveyed, the average price for 10 items decreased and six increased compared to the prior quarter.

Sliced deli ham, sirloin tip roast, flour, bread and eggs declined the most in dollar value compared to the second quarter.

Sliced deli ham dropped 58 cents to $4.66 per pound; sirloin tip roast was down 24 cents to $3.86 per pound; flour dropped 20 cents to $2.15 for a 5-pound bag; bread dropped 15 cents to $1.61 for a 20-ounce loaf; and eggs dropped 12 cents to $1.41 per dozen.

“Overall, retail food prices have been relatively stable in 2010,” says John Anderson, AFBF economist. “Price data collected by our volunteer shoppers during the third quarter of the year shows that pattern is continuing to hold.”

Other items that declined in price since the second quarter were toasted oat cereal, down 11 cents to $2.84 for a 9-ounce box; shredded cheddar cheese, down 7 cents to $4.09 per pound; vegetable oil, down 6 cents to $2.55 for a 32-ounce bottle; bagged salad, down 5 cents to $2.75 for a 1-pound bag; and orange juice, down 3 cents for a half-gallon to $2.97.

Most items showing a drop in retail price this quarter also showed year-to-year declines. Compared to one year ago, flour fell 13 percent, bread was down 8 percent, vegetable oil dropped 6 percent and orange juice was 5 percent lower.

Six foods increased slightly in price compared to the prior quarter: boneless chicken breasts, up 19 cents to $3.44 per pound; Russet potatoes, up 12 cents to $2.63 for a 5-pound bag; bacon, up 11 cents to $3.64 per pound; whole milk, up 10 cents to $3.16 per gallon; apples, up 4 cents to $1.50 per pound; and ground chuck, up 2 cents to $2.91 per pound.

“In general, meat demand has improved quite a bit since 2009,” Anderson notes. “Typically, when the economy slows and consumer confidence slips as we saw happen during the third quarter, retail demand holds up better for lower-priced products, which is consistent with what our shoppers reported.”

The year-to-year direction of the marketbasket survey tracks 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.

“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. Since then, that figure has decreased steadily and is now just 19 percent, according to Agriculture Department statistics,” Anderson says.

Using the “food at home and away from home” percentage across-the-board, the farmer’s share of this quarter’s $46.17 marketbasket would be $8.77.

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 62 shoppers in 33 states participated in the latest survey, conducted in August.

Source: AFBF