Kentucky food prices ease slightly but up from year ago

If you cooked a holiday dinner, then you probably already know this: Food cost more in 2011 than in 2010. But the good news is, prices are gradually falling, so by Easter, things might be better.

According to the Kentucky Farm Bureau's quarterly Marketbasket Survey, food prices in December 2011 were down for the second consecutive quarter but were up year over year.

The total cost of 40 basic grocery items in six food groups (beef, dairy, fruits and vegetables, grains, pork, poultry) was $115.90, down $1.16, or 1 percent, from the same list the previous quarter.

But the total was $6.69, or 6.1 percent, higher than the same quarter of 2010 and $10.62, or 10.1 percent, higher than the same quarter of 2009.

The highest price increase for December 2011 was for beef (rib-eye steak led the herd), and the biggest decrease was for Idaho potatoes.

The top five average increases were seen in rib-eye steak, mild Cheddar cheese, cut-up fryers, American cheese and white bread.

The five biggest average decreases were for potatoes, vanilla ice cream, whole smoked ham, Red Delicious apples and whole fryers.

Farm Bureau spokesman Dan Smaldone said the price boost is directly linked to higher energy and transportation costs.

Here's something that might make you feel better the next time your blood pressure starts rising at the grocery store: Americans pay some of the lowest food prices in the world and spend only about 10 percent of our disposable income on food each year.

Despite the rise in food prices, farmers get comparatively less today than 30 years ago. Food prices have approximately doubled since the 1980s, according to Smaldone's data. But American farmers get less than 16 cents for each dollar spent on food, down from 31 cents in 1980, he said.