- Meat prices rose by 0.9% in March compared with the same period in 2022, a level that was well below the overall rate of grocery inflation, according to data released last week by Circana and 210 Analytics.
- Prices for fresh beef, pork, bacon and lamb were down last month on a year-over-year basis, while costs for chicken and turkey rose by almost 10%.
- The number of pounds of fresh and processed meat sold in March was down 1.5% from the level recorded a year ago — an improvement from the nearly 3% sales decline posted in August 2022, when roaring inflation pushed meat prices up by 7.6%.
Meat prices have been affected less significantly than prices for other items by the strong inflation that has buffeted the economy since 2021, and that trend has continued as inflation has decelerated in recent months.
Grocery inflation came in at an annual rate of 8.4% in March, down from 10.2% in February, while overall inflation declined to 5%.
National meat brands did better than store brands during the first quarter of 2023. Sales of private brands were down 1.7% during the quarter compared with Q1 of 2022, while national brands recorded a sales decline of 0.6%. Store brands accounted for 44% of meat sales, with manufacturer brands accounting for the rest.
Lamb was the only type of fresh meat to record increases in terms of both pounds and dollars in March compared with that month in 2022. Meanwhile, smoked ham led the way in the meat department, with dollar sales up 40.1% year-over-year in terms of dollars and volumes up 76.7%.
Across the board, food prices at multi-outlet stores including supermarkets, supercenters as well as mass and club retailers were up 9.8% on an annual basis in March. That was down from 11.2% in February and 13.2% in January, but the cumulative impact of months of rapid price increases means shoppers are paying sharply more for food now than they were before inflation took off.
Food prices last month were 21.4% above where they were in March 2021 and a whopping 27.4% higher than in March 2020, when the onset of COVID-19 sparked frenzied sales for grocers, Circana and 210 Analytics noted. Circana was formed through the 2022 merger of IRI and The NPD Group.
Fresh fruit prices were off 2.4% in March on a year-over-year basis, while vegetable prices rose by about 3% and frozen food prices were up 11.3%, according to the research firms. Prices for eggs — which soared last year amid a shortage driven by avian flu — were 38.7% higher in March than they were in March 2022, helping drive a unit sales decrease of 4.9%.