Consumer poultry prices experience temporary drop

The consumer price for poultry meats dropped slightly from January to February, in direct contrast to pork and beef, which both edged up. The estimated consumer price for poultry products — including broiler chicken and turkey — backed off by 0.2 percent, while the price of pork saw a 0.8 percent increase, and beef and veal saw a 0.4 percent increase during February, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Price Outlook released on March 25.

The consumer price for poultry meats dropped slightly from January to February, in direct contrast to pork and beef, which both edged up.

The estimated consumer price for poultry products — including broiler chicken and turkey — backed off by 0.2 percent, while the price of pork saw a 0.8 percent increase, and beef and veal saw a 0.4 percent increase during February, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Price Outlook released on March 25.

However, it was the price of fish and seafood that saw the biggest decline in consumer price for the month, dropping by 1.2 percent. Since seafood is less reliant on crop-based feeds, its prices have not been impacted as harshly by the past year's drought.

"We're keeping our eyes closest on all prices for foods that are animal based, so of course meats, your beef and pork and poultry, but also eggs and dairy products are going to be affected," said USDA economist Ricky Volpe during an agency broadcast. "These are the foods that are based on corn-based animal feeds, and that's where we expect to see the biggest impacts."

Eggs jumped in price by 1.1 percent, while dairy products dropped by 0.4 percent.

Year-over-year estimates

When compared to the price estimates from February 2012, only pork and products categorized as "other meats" saw a drop. Pork was down 1.5 percent, while other meats dropped by 0.2 percent.

Eggs and poultry saw the highest year-over-year increase, jumping by 5.8 and 5 percent, respectively. Beef prices went up by 3.4 percent, while fish and seafood went up by 0.5 percent.

Forecast for 2013 and beyond

While many meat prices have jumped as feed prices have risen among tight supplies, Volpe said he still anticipates "most of the impact of the drought is yet to come."

Nearly all proteins are forecast to increase by 3 to 4 percent for 2013, including poultry, pork, beef and veal, and other meats. Dairy products, meanwhile, are projected to increase from 3.5 to 4.5 percent, but fish and seafood are only forecast to jump 2.5 to 3.5 percent.

Those projections are consistent with the ones released in last month's Food Price report, and are higher than the historical average, according to Volpe.

Contributing to the price pressures are low long-term inflation, and low meat inventories relative to demand.

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