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Food prices rise in Minnesota

It's likely you've noticed the grand total for your groceries is a little higher than last year.

The price of food is on the rise, according to a Marketbasket Survey conducted by the American Farm Bureau Federation. Minnesota's retail food prices are below the nation's average increase, but they're still on the rise.

Survey details

The informal survey compared the cost of 16 food items - things like shredded cheese, vegetable oil, potatoes and toasted oat cereal.

The prices were tracked during the first quarter of this year. A total of 71 shoppers in 29 states participated.

Nationwide, the 16 items totaled $49.07, up $2.10, or about 4 percent more, compared to the fourth quarter in 2010. In Minnesota, the same 16 items totaled $48.59, up about $3 over last year.

At first glance, the increases are pocket change - a few cents more here and there, but consumers know now more than ever that it all adds up quickly.

Of the 16 items evaluated, shredded cheddar cheese, vegetable oil, ground chuck and flour increased the most:

Shredded cheddar cheese increased 47 cents to $4.63 per pound, and up to $4.11 in Minnesota.

Vegetable oil increased 29 cents to $2.88 for a 32-ounce bottle, and up to $2.66 in Minnesota.

Ground chuck has increased 27 cents to $3.10 per pound, and up to $3.34 in Minnesota.

Flour increased 52 cents to $2.51 for a 5-pound bag, and up to $2.57 in Minnesota.

Grocers weigh in

Steve Dous, assistant manager at Pete's County Market, said food prices are up because commodity prices have increased.

"As the increased cost is passed on to us, we're forced to pass on the increase to customers," Dous said.

Dennis Christensen, co-owner of Elden's Food Fair in Alexandria, agrees.

"The margins are getting slimmer and slimmer. We have to watch our expenses a lot more," he said, adding that the rising food prices are due to a combination of things.

"Fuel [increases] are causing everything else to go up, things like feed for cattle and grains for cereal," he said.

According to the USDA, Americans spend just under 10 percent of their disposable annual income on food, the lowest average for any country in the world.

How much of your food dollar goes to farmers?

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. Today, that figure dropped to about 16 percent.

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Amy Chaffins

Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.

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