SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A coalition of health, nutrition and education professionals -- and dairy producers and processors -- has released statistics showing California's controversial milk prices have dropped over the past year.
id in September last year. The figures, compiled by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, showed that all varieties of milk in California were selling for less than they were at the same time last year, an estimated savings of more than $50 million, the group stated.
The greatest savings were found in 1% milk, which saw prices drop from an average of $2.91 a gallon in September 1999 to $2.73 a year later, a savings of 18 cents. This was followed by whole and skim milk, which saw prices drop 8 cents per gallon ($2.65 to $2.57 and $2.54 to $2.46, respectively).
Two-percent milk experienced the lowest drop in price, totaling 6 cents, from $2.58 to $2.52 during the one-year period, the figures show.
Los Angeles consumers have seen some of the biggest decreases, said CNM officials. A gallon of 1% lowfat milk in L.A. was averaging $2.95 per gallon in September last year, compared to $2.74 in September this year -- a decrease of 21 cents. Similarly, Bay Area consumers have also benefited from the decline in prices with a matching 21-cent decrease in the 1% lowfat milk variety from a year ago.
But Elisa Odabashian, policy analyst for Consumers Union, headquartered in Yonkers, N.Y., told SN she's noticed little, if any difference, in retail milk prices.
"Nielsen figures have always seemed extremely low compared to our own studies," she said, noting that she recently paid $3.99 for a gallon of whole milk at a supermarket in the Bay Area of San Francisco, where the organization's West Coast office is located.
Odabashian, whose group has waged a long-running battle for lower retail milk prices, also questioned the California Department of Food and Agriculture's figures.
"I think they're skewed because CDFA allows retailers to include their '2-for-1' prices as a single gallon, diluting the real numbers," she said, referring to popular buy-one, get-one-free deals offered by the state's retailers on fluid milk gallons.
CNM officials also cited figures showing that California milk prices are well below U.S. average prices. For example, a gallon of whole milk had a nationwide average price of $2.68 in September 2000, while the typical price in California was $2.57.
The margin was less for 2% and skim milk. But, for 1% product, prices were actually higher here, $2.73, versus a national average price of $2.57.