WASHINGTON – Retail food prices advanced slightly in the first quarter of 2012, with meats and cheese showing the greatest increases, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFB) Marketbasket Survey.

“Retail prices for meats and cheese were higher in the first quarter of the year due to generally strong demand and tight supplies, a situation that carried over from 2011,” said John Anderson, an AFBF senior economist. “According to Agriculture Department data, retail meat prices probably peaked sometime in the first quarter, and wholesale prices have declined noticeably in recent weeks. This suggests that retail meat prices may decline as 2012 progresses.”

The informal Marketbasket Survey shows the total cost of 16 food items that can be used to prepare one or more meals. In the first quarter, that total was $52.47, up 7 percent or $3.24 compared to the fourth quarter of 2011. Thirteen of the 16 items surveyed increased in average price compared to the prior quarter, the AFB said, while three items decreased in average price.

AFB said roughly two-thirds of the increase in the marketbasket of foods was due to higher retail prices for sliced deli ham, sirloin tip roast, ground chuck, bacon and cheddar cheese. Sliced deli ham increased 74 cents to $5.43 per lb.; sirloin tip roast increased 60 cents to $4.75 per lb.; ground chuck increased 36 cents to $3.53 per lb.; shredded cheddar increased 33 cents to $4.65 per lb. and bacon increased 16 cents to $4.21 per lb.

Items that showed year-to-year increases were sirloin tip roast, which increased 20 percent, ground chuck increased 14 percent and sliced deli ham increased 11 percent compared to 2011.