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Posted: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 10:49 am

Got a freezer?

You might want to stock up on meat.

The latest survey of food prices in Arizona has the cost of a market basket of 16 typical items at $49.25. That’s down $1.94 from the same period three months earlier.

One of the big reasons for the decline is a sharp drop in the price of pork. Julie Murphree, who is in charge of marketing for the Arizona Farm Bureau Federation, said that’s directly related to high feed prices paid by pork producers.

“They actually were moving their inventory, so to speak, moving their swine to market, in other words, slaughter, because the corn prices were high,” she said.

“It’s one of the ways they can manage,” Murphree explained. “So they may have moved those herds a little faster than normal.”

A lot of that, she said, has to do with the drought. That is driving up prices for corn, soybeans and other commodities.

In essence, the market is reflecting a basic law of economics: More supply drives down prices.

The price of beef also has slipped somewhat, but Murphree said there’s an entirely different issue at work here.

Beef, Murphree said, is a different matter. She said there is no evidence that ranchers are selling off their cattle any faster.

“But they decided not to buy as many of what the industry calls ‘feeder’ cattle” to fatten up over the next six to eight months.

“What they did is keep their herds smaller,” Murphree continued, in a bid to keep down their own feeding costs.

But what that will mean, she said, is smaller supplies of beef next year. And that, in turn, will translate into higher prices.

“In the short-time frame, it might be wise to stock up on some of your meats,” Murphree said, saying she’s doing that herself.

“You might not have to fill the whole freezer up,” she said. “But it wouldn’t hurt.”

The new report also shows lower prices for milk and cheese, with apples and orange juice being a bit more expensive.

Murphree stressed that the quarterly survey is based on what Farm Bureau volunteers find at markets around the state, excluding promotional deals. She said shoppers probably can find even better deals by hunting for sales, especially from stores that give even deeper discounts to those who use their loyalty cards, as well as clipping coupons.

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