Ham Prices High Heading Into Easter Holiday

Ham prices high heading into Easter holidayOMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Ham will be the centerpiece of many Easter dinners this weekend, but the cost of that traditional main dish may make it harder for families to live high on the hog.

Ham prices have been higher than usual for the past two years because the cost of pig feed has gone up, and some major pork producers are spending millions to convert barns as they phase out cramped cages used to confine pregnant sows.

Ham has been selling wholesale for 75 to 80 cents per pound this spring, which is in line with last year's prices but well above the 55 cents per pound average for the previous five years.

A recent check at one Omaha-area supermarket found boneless Hormel hams selling for about $2.20 per pound, with bone-in hams slightly cheaper. With sales offered this week to attract Easter shoppers, it was possible to get a bone-in ham for as little as $1.28 per pound.

Paula Vejvoda of Omaha said she's had her Easter ham in the freezer since Christmas, when she bought it on sale so she could economically feed her two daughters, two exchange students and husband.

"You really have to watch the ads and see who has the best price," Vejvoda said.

That's good advice for families, but hard to do when you're trying to provide ham for hundreds of people at a food pantry.

Joyce Lonergan, food pantry director at St. Anthony's Shrine in downtown Boston, said she tries to arrange to have a special meal at each holiday to help boost people's spirits, but the prospect seemed daunting when the pantry began shopping for hams back in January. They were selling for $2.30 per pound, not the 99 cents per pound paid last year.

With added donations and some breaks from suppliers, St. Anthony's was able to secure ham steaks and chickens for the holiday meal.

"We've made it work only because people have been so generous," Lonergan said.

Livestock economist Shane Ellis said the price of ham isn't likely to drop soon because pork producers' costs aren't decreasing. Feed, which is mainly corn, is running about $6 a bushel - not far from the record $7.99 per bushel set last June.

Pork producers also are switching from gestation crates to more open pens amid public pressure from consumers and animal welfare advocates who believe the smaller cages are cruel. One major producer, Smithfield Foods, recently said it expects to spend nearly $300 million by 2017 to convert its barns.

The switch also requires more labor to manage the sows because they tend to fight. Some of those costs are likely to be passed on to consumers.

Americans consume about 51 pounds of pork a year on average, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

While ham is a traditional element of many Easter meals, Ellis said prices typically peak in June, near the height of the grilling season when demand is highest. The low point is usually at the end of the calendar year because that's when large numbers of hogs reach the market.

Many organizations, like the Food Bank for the Heartland, don't even attempt to deliver a special holiday meal to the people they help because their goal is to offer the most nutritious food at the lowest possible price.

Donations from business and individuals have been down over the past two years, making it harder to keep up with the need in the 93 counties in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa that the food bank serves, spokesman Brian Barks said.

Most food pantries, shelters and other programs receiving food from the Omaha food bank this Easter will receive staples like pasta, peanut butter or canned chicken. The food bank recently received 4,200 3-pound hams from the USDA, but Barks said those were gone within a couple of weeks.

"Meat has almost become a luxury item at the food bank," he said.


Associated Press Writer Laura Crimaldi contributed to this report from Providence, R.I.

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April 06 2012 at 5:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If you have a family and shop at your local grocery store you have seen all prices going thru the roof. Why do you think that the government is so hard on fat people. They are telling us that things are going to get so far out of hand that it will be like Europe before WWII. Can't wait to see that

April 05 2012 at 7:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joanna Casteel

I wouldn't eat any meat that has nitrates in them because their not healthy for you.

April 05 2012 at 6:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Joanna Casteel's comment

Really? Been eating them all my life, as did my grandparents and they lived to be ripe old ages. If you didn't eat anything they claim is bad for you, you'd never eat anything.

April 05 2012 at 7:09 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Maybe we should all go down south and help them kill off the heavy invasion of wild boars and get free Easter ham!!!

April 05 2012 at 5:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to quzey's comment


April 05 2012 at 5:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

They're all over the country, not just in Florida.

April 06 2012 at 4:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Really...............Everything is going up because of gas......

April 05 2012 at 3:40 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to ggschk's comment


April 05 2012 at 5:55 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Everything but our incomes that is

April 05 2012 at 7:20 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

i don't like ham and therefore don't eat it, when the greediness of the grocers stops, the economy will get better..... it's all about greed...

April 05 2012 at 1:20 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to natalie's comment

I'm not sure it's greed. As their costs go up, so must their prices.

April 05 2012 at 4:40 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Surprise, people that voted for NOBAMA deserve these high prices, he told everyone in his campaign speech that he wanted GAS to be over $5 a gallo, and that he would shut down the coal industry, well my friends, the GAS prices he has lived up to, 150% increase, the Coal industry is hurt from the 32 coal fired electric generating plants that his EPA CZAR has on the shut down list. He had his economist croonies have killed COLA,NOBAMA had these croonies to remove food and energy prices from the calculation of the Cost of Living. All of you know that groceries and fuel alone has caused at least 25% in cost of living increases since he took office. No EARMARKS, He said that he would VETO and BILL that crossed his desk, BUT, instead he SIGNED over 3,400 BILLS that contained EARMARKS. My people, if you cant figure out why food prices are spiking you need not go any farther than your local gas station and look at the contents of the GAS, its called ETHANOL, where does ethanol come from? you got it, corn, soy beans and many other farmed products which is causing a shortage in these products. Did you also know that GAS DISTRIBUTORS are SUBSIDISED .50 a gallon for using ETHANOL in their fuel? This garbage is killing your car, its destroying the engine and the fuel parts on it if the car os under a 2005, alcohol will destroy seals and rubber parts, make the engine run out of time causing it to be sluggish and octane knock, this is called detonation, detonation is where the fuel is fired before it is supposed to fire because the spark isnt firing it, its being fired on compression. this will cause ring burn, valve seals and the valves eventually will burn. WAKE UP PEOPLE< RID OUR COUNTRY OF NOBAMA AND HIS CZARS.

April 05 2012 at 1:16 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to saultydog42's comment

I honestly don't think this country will survive until November.

April 05 2012 at 7:08 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

When is inflating food prices going to stop? This is all BS.

April 05 2012 at 12:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Laura's comment

When that incompetent boob is out of the White House.

April 05 2012 at 7:10 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

When people stand up and fight it

April 05 2012 at 7:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hmmm, jack up the price of ham at Easter. Another crock. How much does pig slop cost nowadays?

April 05 2012 at 12:14 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to georgessc's comment

I don't think it's the slop. I think it's the gasoline to transport everything, as well as the water itself which supplies the grains which become animal feed, which in many areas is bid on, and irrigation prices are gong up like everything else.

April 05 2012 at 4:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

george, Try raising your own and you'll see how much it cost. Much cheaper to go to the grocery store and buy one cooked and sliced for you.

April 06 2012 at 4:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Well, I guess I won't be buying any ham.

April 05 2012 at 12:13 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Catzs's comment

Good the less people buy then the more the price will drop for the rest of us.

April 06 2012 at 4:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply