In 2013, more dough needed to buy food

Consumers in McHenry County and across the nation can expect to pay more for that savory pork roast, porterhouse steak or a carton of eggs in the new year.

For 2013, the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects a 3 to 4 percent increase in the price of meats, poultry and fish, and a 3.5 to 4.5 percent increase in the price of dairy products. That’s more than the typical 2.8 percent rate of inflation for food.

Higher prices inevitably will be passed on to consumers, local grocers said.

“We will have continued increases in prices through summer 2013. That’s set in stone,” said Rich Nelson, chief strategist for Allendale Inc., a McHenry-based brokerage that provides market analysis for grain and livestock traders and develops market plans for agricultural producers. “But like other years after a drought, we look for a recovery in production and prices to fall.”

Nelson said the mild winter in early 2012 coupled with an extremely dry summer wreaked havoc on the fall corn harvest. Grain production dropped 13 percent from 2011, the largest annual decrease since 1995.

That has led to higher grain prices and higher costs for beef, pork, poultry and dairy products because livestock feeds on grain, he said.

Chris Sychta, general manager for Joe Caputo & Sons in Algonquin, said price increases ultimately will be passed on to consumers.

But the specialty grocer has to be mindful of its competition. It can’t price itself out of the market and would look to more promotions to offset price increases to consumers, Sychta said.

“People are going to give up their movies and entertainment, before they slash [food],” he said. “People have to eat before they can do anything. But to be competitive, you don’t want to pass that burden onto the consumer.”

Likewise, Joseph’s Marketplace at Route 14 and Virginia Avenue in Crystal Lake has to be price conscious because there are multiple competitors a few blocks away.

Store manager Angel Alvarado said the marketplace has to balance an increase in food prices with what competitors are charging and juggle fixed business costs, such as employee salaries.

Consumers don’t have to break the bank to pay for groceries, said Jill Cataldo, a Huntley mother who gained national media attention by starting a Web-based coupon business – www.supercouponing.com – in 2008.

Cataldo said consumers need to shop smart at the grocery store, take advantage of sales and not be afraid to stock up on discounted, nonperishable and frozen foods.

“It’s about knowing the best prices when you buy” and not shutting off your brain when you go to the grocery store, she said.

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