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November 7, 2001

Food shoppers to spend more, but may gobble up bargains

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The cost of this year's Thanksgiving meal will be slightly more than last, despite some bargain items on the menu, according to a Purdue University food marketing economist.

"Overall, retail food prices this fall are running about 3 percent above last year," said Joseph Uhl, professor of agricultural economics. "In 2000, food prices rose about 2.3 percent."

The good news this year is that some foods will cost less. "Fresh orange prices are 8 percent lower and apple prices are down 2 percent," he said. "Retail coffee prices are down 9 percent."

The centerpiece of the Thanksgiving Day table, the turkey, also will cost less this year and should be in adequate supply.

"Often stores sell turkey at lower prices during the holidays as an incentive to bring in shoppers," Uhl said. "Wholesale turkey prices are running 6 to 8 cents per pound below last year."

Other foods that are a bargain this year include lettuce, tomatoes, nuts, flour and eggs.

Retail dairy product prices have fallen in the last month, Uhl said, although butter and cheese prices are still higher than one year ago.

Among the items costing a little more this year are cranberries and sweet potatoes.

"The cranberry and sweet potato crops are somewhat smaller than last year, causing the price increase." Uhl said. "This year's potato crop is down about 9 percent from last year's record crop, with retail prices running 10 to 12 percent above last year."

Other items making a bigger dent in the food budget this year are sugar, grapes, bananas, peaches and meats, such as beef and pork.

"Retail pork and beef prices this fall are running 8 percent above last year." he said. "Pork prices have been at or near record highs for most of this year. Beef prices reached record highs in June, and have declined, but are still above year ago levels."

The finishing touch to the holiday meal, pumpkin pie, should be affordable. "The United States' pumpkin production has expanded rapidly in the past two decades, and prices should be about equal to last year," he said.

Uhl said the slowing economy has affected food shopping and consumption.

"Consumers are eating at home more often, substituting staple foods for more expensive convenience foods," he said. "As a result, we may see more families eat at home this Thanksgiving, rather than going out to a restaurant."

Writer: Beth Forbes, (765) 494-2722; bforbes@aes.purdue.edu

Source: Joseph Uhl, (765) 494-4219; uhl@agecon.purdue.edu

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722; Beth Forbes, bforbes@aes.purdue.edu; http://www.agriculture.purdue.edu/AgComm/public/agnews/

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu


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