Retail food prices at the supermarket declined slightly during the second quarter of 2012 with protein staples – meats, cheese, milk and eggs – showing the greatest drops in price, 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 $50.91, down $1.56 or about 3 percent compared to the first quarter of 2012. Of the 16 items surveyed, 12 decreased and four increased in average price compared to the prior quarter. The cost for the overall basket of foods fell about one-half of 1 percent compared to one year ago.

Most of the quarter-to-quarter decrease in the marketbasket of foods was due to lower retail prices for sliced meats and dairy products.

“The decline in retail meat prices for the second quarter is not unexpected,” said John Anderson, an AFBF senior economist. “Wholesale meat prices trended lower at the end of the first quarter of the year and consumers are benefiting from that as retail prices have followed suit.”

Reversing increases in the prior quarter, shredded cheddar decreased 36 cents to $4.29 per pound; sliced deli ham decreased 19 cents to $5.24 per pound; orange juice decreased 19 cents to $3.17 for a half-gallon; bacon decreased 17 cents to $4.04 per pound; large eggs declined 16 cents to $1.61 per dozen; toasted oat cereal decreased 14 cents to $2.99 for a 9-ounce box; bagged salad decreased 11 cents to $2.74 per pound; apples decreased 9 cents to $1.50 per pound; sirloin tip roast decreased 6 cents to $4.69 per pound; and flour decreased 3 cents to $2.62 for a 5-pound bag.

Two items continued declines from the prior quarter. Whole milk declined by 17 cents to $3.36 for one gallon and boneless chicken breasts decreased by 10 cents to $3.09 per pound.

Four items showed modest retail price increases: ground chuck increased 12 cents to $3.65 per pound; Russet potatoes increased 5 cents to $3.06 for a 5-pound bag; white bread increased 3 cents to $1.88 for a 20-ounce loaf; and vegetable oil increased 1 cent to $2.98 for a 32-ounce bottle.

Several items showing a decrease in retail price from quarter-to-quarter also showed year-to-year decreases. Dairy products were generally down year-to-year, reflecting the effects of increased dairy production this year. Bacon prices are also down from last summer’s record levels.

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.

“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 percent, according to the Agriculture Department’s revised Food Dollar Series,” Anderson said. Details about USDA’s new Food Dollar Series may be found online at

Using the “food at home and away from home” percentage across-the-board, the farmer’s share of this quarter’s $50.91 marketbasket would be $8.15.

AFBF, the nation’s largest general farm organization, has been conducting the informal quarterly Marketbasket Survey of retail food price trends since 1989. The mix of foods in the marketbasket was updated during the first quarter of 2008.

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 74 shoppers in 28 states participated in the latest survey, conducted in May.

Sidebar: Tracking Milk and Egg Trends

For the second quarter of 2012, shoppers reported the average price for a half-gallon of regular whole milk was $2.21, down 25 cents from the prior quarter. The average price for one gallon of regular whole milk was $3.36, down 17 cents. Comparing per-quart prices, the retail price for whole milk sold in gallon containers was about 25 percent lower compared to half-gallon containers, a typical volume discount long employed by retailers.

The average price for a half-gallon of rBST-free milk was $3.57, up 15 cents from the last quarter, about 40 percent higher than the reported retail price for a half-gallon of regular milk ($2.21).

The average price for a half-gallon of organic milk was $3.92, down 27 cents compared to the prior quarter, about 70 percent higher than the reported retail price for a half-gallon of regular milk ($2.21).

Compared to a year ago (second quarter of 2011), the retail price for regular milk in gallon containers was up about 2 percent, while regular milk in half-gallon containers rose 9 percent. The average retail price for rBST-free milk increased 6 percent compared to the prior year, while organic milk was up 13 percent.

For the first quarter of 2012, the average price for one dozen regular eggs was $1.61, down 16 cents compared to the prior quarter. The average price for a dozen “cage-free” eggs was $3.29, down 10 cents compared to the prior quarter but nearly double (90 percent higher) the price of regular eggs. Compared to a year ago (second quarter of 2011), regular eggs were essentially unchanged while “cage-free” eggs increased 3 percent.