Shawano grocery bill above state average

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Customers shopping in Shawano grocery stores might be shelling out more money than others in the state, according to the latest Marketbasket Survey done by the Wisconsin Farm Bureau.

However, a WFB spokeswoman pointed out that the prices depend where one shops and that prices overall have remained relatively stable.

According to survey results taken in March, Shawano residents paid about $58.53 for 16 everyday items, compared with $50.04 statewide and $53.27 for the nation. In March 2013, locals paid $51.10 for the same items.

Meat and cheese prices jumped the most. Out of the 16 items, only three items dropped in price, and one remained the same.

The biggest prince increases was for shredded cheddar cheese, which went from $3.50 per pound in 2013 to $5.98 today. The average state consumer paid $4.38 for cheese, according to the survey results.

Sliced deli ham jumped $1.50, to $3.99, per pound, but the price was lower than the state average of $4.95. Boneless chicken breasts increased by $1.70 per pound, to $4.99, well above the $3.34 state average.

Locally, the price of white bread dropped 50 cents, to $2.49, for a 20-ounce loaf, and a 32-ounce bottle of vegetable oil was also $2.49, a 90-cent decrease.

Amy Manske, WFB communications coordinator, noted that many of the volunteers that look at grocery prices visit only one store, even though communities such as Shawano have multiple options for food purchasing.

As for the future, meat prices are not expected to increase due to the spread of the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus, which has killed more than 4 million young pigs, according to Jamie Patton, University of Wisconsin-Extension agriculture agent for Shawano County. Since PEDV is an unreportable disease, it is unclear how much of an impact it has had on supply numbers, she said.

Shrinking cattle herds will also not impact meat prices, Patton said.

“We don’t believe food prices can go a whole lot higher, so they’ll probably stay at the rate of inflation,” Patton said. “People are maxed out on how much they can spend on food.”

Beef demand is also going down while the demand for chicken is going up. Patton said that more people are eating more chicken than beef for the first time in a century.

“For the long time, beef was our number one meat protein source, and now just recently, after the first of the year, chicken became our number one meat-based protein source,” Patton said, noting that chicken has been touted as a healthier and cheaper food choice than beef.

Patton noted that chicken prices have stayed constant over the last few years because, unlike beef and pork, chicken can be fed a variety of items, not limited to corn or grain.

Patton is keeping a closer eye on grain prices, particularly wheat. She said the unrest with Ukraine and Russia could cause those prices to go up, as Ukraine supplies 6 percent of the world’s supply of wheat.

Also, major wheat growth areas are just coming out of a drought, Patton said, and the recent freezing weather could impact this year’s crop.

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