COLLEGE STATION — Consumers will be able to warm up to January food prices during cold winter weather. Ideal growing conditions in 1994 have led to bumper crops.
“An abundant supply of feed grains, fruits and vegetables has led to a slow growth in food prices — about 3 percent,” said Dr. Richard Edwards, a food marketing specialist with the Texas Agricultural Extension Service.
A primary factor that has kept average food prices down during the past years is the low price of red meat and poultry, he said. Despite high feed prices due to the floods in the Midwest during 1993, prices begin declining last spring as producers of beef and pork continued to expand herds in excess of the demand for their product.
“Consumers will see even better prices on beef, pork and poultry during the first half of 1995,” Edwards said. “The harvest size of feed grains has been so large that feed prices have dropped to their lowest level in the past five years. ”
Additional pressure is being put on red meat prices through a large expansion of “corporate hog farms,” he said.
Several large corporations began expansion of their hog production operations this past year when outlook for profits seemed favorable. This additional production capacity will force beef prices to remain competitive during the first quarter. So, consumers can expect meat prices to remain low throughout the year because of the record harvest of feed grains and the jump in production of pork.
Among meats in January, the prices on pork will be low. The headliners will be pork chops, shoulder roasts, and hams. End-of-the- loin chops will be sold for around $1.25 per pound with center-cut chops selling for around 30 cents per pound higher. Pork shoulder roasts will sell for around $1.10 per pound even when cut into pork steaks. Ham will cost around $1 per pound. Sausage and bacon also will be marked down at least 10 percent.
Another featured item will be leg of lamb. Promotions during the month will drop the price of this item to around $2 per pound.
The best beef buys will be on ground beef for 99 cents a pound when purchased in the five-pound bulk packages. Chuck roasts with bone also will sell for around $1 per pound. Boneless chuck roasts will be about 40 cents per pound higher. Sirloin and round steaks will be on special for $1.59 to $1.69 per pound. When on special, T-bone steaks will go for around $3 per pound.
In the poultry section, whole birds will be featured for 59 cents per pound. Prices on boneless breasts will drop below $2 per pound to compete with lower- priced premium cuts of red meat. Sale prices on the leg-thigh cut will inch upward to 49 cents per pound as producers attempt to recoup some of the profits lost when discounting the boneless breasts.
This season’s crop of oranges is estimated to be up 13 percent from last year, which means lower prices for oranges, frozen concentrate and refrigerated juices. Frozen concentrate will be on special for between 69 and 79 cents per container. One-half gallon containers of chilled orange juice will drop at least 20 cents per container. Private label orange juice will be on sale at prices below $1 and navel oranges at 25 cents per pound.
Grapefruit production is estimated to be about 10 percent higher. Prices of red grapefruit will be 39 to 49 cents per pound and juice prices will drop below regular retail by 10 to 15 percent when on special.
Other produce featured in newspaper ads will be limited as domestic production dwindles in California, Arizona, Texas and Florida. These areas will be harvesting broccoli, lettuce, brussels sprouts, green peppers, green peas, and spinach. The best prices will be on broccoli at 39 cents per pound and spinach at 69 cents per bunch. Tomatoes from Mexico will cost 79 cents per pound on special. Peaches, plums, and grapes from Chile will make their initial appearance in the produce section. Sale prices will be between 79 and 89 cents per pound for peaches and plums and 99 and $1.09 per pound for grapes.
Apples will sell for 59 to 79 cents per pound and the winter squashes, acorn, butternut, and spaghetti, will go for 49 cents per pound.
Specials will be advertised on frozen and canned vegetables. The 1994 crop caused a sufficient surplus in most vegetables except lima beans. Products will be reduced by a minimum of 15 percent when on sale. Canned soup will be on special every week in January, with the best bargains on national brands of traditional types of soup such as tomato and chicken noodle at 39 to 49 cents per can. Frozen pizza also will be heavily promoted. The smaller sizes with a single topping will be priced below $1 per pie. Larger sizes with multiple toppings will cost up to $3.
The largest of the seasonal promotions will focus on Super Bowl Sunday, Edwards said. Chips, dips, drinks and luncheon meats will be heavily discounted and an extensive coupon campaign will run in conjunction with this event. Consumers will save even more as most manufacturers spend heavily on promotions the week before the game.