WASHINGTON – The Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all food and food-at-home (grocery stores) is projected to increase 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent in 2012, while prices for food away from home (restaurants) is forecast to increase 2 percent to 3 percent, according to the US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS).

ERS said the average annual increase for food-at-home prices between 1990 and 2011 was 2.8 percent, placing the agency’s outlook for 2012 within the historical average for food price inflation. All ERS forecasts for 2012 assume normal weather conditions and no anomalies in the global market for major commodities.

The CPI for all food climbed 0.2 percent from March to April, increased 0.1 percent from February to March, and is now 3.1 percent above the April 2011 level, ERS said.

The food-at-home CPI increased 0.1 percent in April and is up 3.3 percent from last April, while the food-away-from-home index was up 0.3 percent in April and is 2.9 percent above the comparable year-ago period.

The all-items CPI was up 0.3 percent in April and is 2.3 percent above the April 2011 level. The year-over-year increase in the food-at-home CPI has retreated each month in 2012, indicating that food price inflation has slowed down, according to ERS.

Beef prices increased 0.3 percent in April and are 5.9 percent above April 2011, with steak prices up 6.2 percent and ground beef prices up 6.2 percent, according to ERS. Pork prices declined 0.6 percent in April and are 3.0 percent above April 2011 levels. Poultry prices advanced 0.5 percent in April and are 6.1 percent above prices in 2011at this time, with chicken prices up 5.3 percent and other poultry prices (including turkey) up 9.2 percent, ERS said.

Egg prices climbed 1.2 percent in April. Currently egg prices are 5.6 percent above the April 2011 level. Egg price inflation is returning to historically average levels, as the domestic inventory of egg-laying hens in the US continues to expand.