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You butter believe it: 8 foods facing price hikes this fall

Fall means falling prices on some foods, including vegetables and peanuts, but others will see their prices rise as the temperature drops. Read on for the eight foods at risk for price hikes, including butter, oranges, and bacon. Yes, bacon. 

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    Murcott oranges hang from trees in an orange grove in Orange Cove, Calif. Oranges will likely be more expensive this fall, thanks to a paltry harvest in Florida and crop-threatening diseases in Asia. Other foods that face the possibility of price hikes include pork, chocolate, and butter.
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Back in May, we reported on eight foods threatened by summer price hikes. Perhaps you were hoping the falling leaves this autumn would bring falling food prices with them — and that's certainly the forecast with certain edibles (vegetables and peanut butter among them). But you can also count on other foods going up in price, in some cases sharply. As of July, the Consumer Price Index is up 2.5% from July 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

We took a look at eight foods in for possible price hikes this fall. Maybe you should think twice about eating them, lest they eat into your wallet and leave an orange-sized hole in there. Speaking of which…

Oranges

Threat Level: High

Florida is still reeling from a paltry harvest, caused by a bacterial infection from China that creates "citrus greening," where fruit drops off the trees prematurely. That meant the smallest crop in 50 years, according to the Wall Street Journal. And National Geographic reports that prices have soared 22.5% compared to May 2013. Though orange juice sales have hit record lows, mitigating some of the price hike risk, forecasters don't expect the crop in Florida to bounce back anytime soon. That means consumers could feel the squeeze, if you will.

Alternative: Isn't it time for fall fruits anyway? Take a look at apples, pumpkins, and other seasonal favorites. (Yes, pumpkins are technically a fruit!)

Bacon

Threat Level: Medium

It's a proven scientific fact that every food benefits from the beauty of bacon (including milkshakes). But it's far less certain predicting how much bacon prices might rise this fall. Bacon hit an all-time high of $6.11 per pound in June, but dipped ever so slightly in July to $6.01, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A lot depends on how quickly America's pork producers recover from Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus, which killed off more than 10% of the total U.S. herd this year and last. Government forecasters say price relief could come if the remaining hogs get fat enough to provide an increased supply — that is, if they eat like pigs.

Alternative: Come on, are you serious? Well, there is the healthier choice of turkey bacon.

Chocolate

Threat Level: High

You might say those who crave chocolate-covered bacon are really playing with fire. CBS Moneywatch reports that Hershey raised prices by 7% in July and that Mars is planning to follow suit with a 7% hike. The knee-jerk reaction could well spread to other companies, as milk prices remain about 6% higher than last year, and other key ingredients in chocolate remain volatile.

Alternative: For some, there is no substitute. But you have at least two options: either satisfy your sweet tooth with other kinds of candy, or wait until November 1, when post-Halloween chocolate will be on clearance.

Cheese

Threat Level: Medium

Behold, the power of cheese... to jack up your grocery bill. Kraft broke the news in a July 30 earnings call that it had raised cheese pieces from 5% to 12%, citing record prices for barrel and block cheese. Kraft CEO Tony Vernon anticipated that competitors would follow suit. It's possible prices have leveled, but cheese inventories through the end of the year are expected to hit their lowest mark in a decade, says Bloomberg Businessweek. Hmmmm. Turns out cheese might not just clog you arteries, but also be hazardous to your financial health.

Alternative: Peanut butter's coming down in price, and most stacked sandwiches and multi-topping pizzas won't suffer from less cheese, or even no cheese at all.

Deli Meats

Threat Level: Low

Blame it on Kraft again, which promised (and delivered) a 10% hike on half of its Oscar Mayer cold cut line effective at the end of May. Will that continue into the fall? If you at least look at bologna prices, they've dropped about 1% between June and July to $2.88 a pound, BLS statistics show. So the trend could apply across the lunchmeat aisle, though pasture and drought conditions in the Texas/Oklahoma area will play a role in how much wholesale beef prices increase.

Alternative: Selective shopping. Since Oscar Mayer did not significantly raise prices on half of its line, and some lunchmeat prices are dropping, you might not have to cut back on cold cuts.

Chicken

Threat Level: Medium

Chicken could live up to its name and send shoppers running scared from the meat aisle. In July, Reuters reported on a double whammy likely to affect chicken prices. Foreign demand for U.S. chicken is on the rise, while a key breed of rooster has a fertility problem that has put a strain on domestic poultry production. The effects of the latter problem haven't shown up in chicken prices yet, so it remains to be seen what happens over the next few months.

Alternative: Another poultry favorite, turkey, hasn't suffered from similar conditions. Why wait until Thanksgiving?

Butter

Threat Level: High

Millions of U.S. shoppers gave margarine the boot in 2014, as butter consumption has risen to its highest level in 40 years, according to CBS News. That means a pound of butter that cost $1.60 in January jumped to $2.40 in July. In California (where about a third of the nation's butter is produced), any continuation of the lengthy drought will mean sharper drops in supply and even higher prices. And once again, U.S. exports are up — way up — from 2013. In the first five months of this year, we exported 84% more butter and butterfat than the same time last year.

Alternative: Consider going back to margarine in the short term. Or buy store-brand butter, which is priced lower than national and imported brands.

Macaroni

Threat Level: Low

Mama Mia! The price of macaroni went up 4.5% from June to July, BLS statistics show. But the jump may be seasonal, as pasta prices in July 2014 ($1.32 per pound) were almost identical to the same time last year. So the threat of some sort of pasta run-up looks slight, though you'll want to keep an eye out for how much prices fluctuate in the weeks ahead.

Alternative: You can always make your own. Flour prices remained flat over the same period that pasta prices increased. But there's no need to worry for now, unless you top your pasta with butter, bacon, and cheese.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best personal finance bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on the link in the blog description box above.

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