Beef, butter, milk prices up slightly



ELLSWORTH — The prices for beef, butter and milk rose slightly this quarter, according to prices gathered by The American.

Ground beef, a pound of 85 percent lean, has increased by just over 1 percent since October, going from $5.40 to $5.47 this month.

That’s on top of a 7 percent spike that occurred last summer for beef.

The price of a pound of store-brand butter has increased by 3 percent from $3.07 to $3.17. Milk is also up 1.3 percent, going from $3.60 to $3.65 for a gallon of 2 percent store brand.

Those are three findings of The American’s latest Market Basket report. Every quarter, the newspaper records the price of grocery staples at the Ellsworth Hannaford, Shaw’s Supermarket and Walmart and generates an average.

Christine Cummings, executive director of the Maine Grocers and Food Producers Association, said an increase in the minimum wage is a factor in food prices in Maine.

“We’ve heard from many retailers that they’ve received notifications from their suppliers that their costs are rising and therefore hitting the end consumer,” Cummings said.

Meanwhile, high-fat diets are thought to be a factor for price increases of butter as well as olives and avocados, according to a Feb. 25 Wall Street Journal article.

The article cites the U.S. Department of Agriculture in stating that butter consumption rose worldwide, not just in the United States, by 13 percent between 2013 and 2018.

But, other items at the grocery store have increased due to tariffs.

Friends & Family Market Manager Matt Welch, whose parents own the Ellsworth store and another in Fairfield, said U.S. tariffs on aluminum and plastic are affecting other areas of the store. Beer and soda prices have increased in particular, Welch said.

“The beverage companies like Coke and Pepsi went up a pretty steep amount this year,” Welch said. The beer companies have two planned increases, he said.

Meanwhile, made-in-Maine products, such as baked goods, have increased because of the minimum wage increase, Welch said.

Here’s a bit of Maine minimum wage history:

In 2016, Maine voters approved increasing Maine’s minimum wage from $7.50 an hour to $12 an hour by 2020.

On Jan. 1 of this year, minimum wage became $11 an hour. The wage will increase another dollar on Jan. 1, 2020, when it caps at $12 an hour.

“A lot of bakery products shot up instantly because it’s very labor intensive,” Welch said.

In other market basket prices, a 16.3-ounce jar of Skippy peanut butter remained flat at $2.75, as did a 20-ounce loaf of store-brand bread — $1.38. A 12-ounce box of Cheerios was also unchanged at $3.15.

There was one decrease. The price of a dozen store-brand large white eggs was down 3 percent to $1.76.

Jennifer Osborn

Jennifer Osborn

Reporter and columnist at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Jennifer Osborn covers news and features on the Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer Isle-Stonington. She welcomes tips and story ideas. She also writes the Gone Shopping column. Email Jennifer with your suggestions at [email protected] or call 667-2576.

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