Food processors, manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, and foodservice providers transform raw agricultural commodities into convenient food products for American consumers to buy. Transportation, processing, and packaging are among the many marketing services provided. Value added to commodities through marketing services accounts for a substantial portion of consumer food prices.

ERS compares the prices paid by consumers for food with the prices received by farmers for their corresponding commodities. ERS's goal is to inform policymakers, agriculture, and the general public about the value added to agricultural commodities by the food marketing system and to compare costs for marketing commodities with farm receipts. This data product reports these comparisons for a variety of foods sold through retail food stores such as supermarkets and supercenters.

Farm-to-consumer price spreads may increase or decrease over time with changes in the mix and prices of services required to transform raw agricultural commodities into consumer food products.  Long-run trends therefore reflect a variety of underlying economic conditions, including changes in the technology used to process and distribute food as well as changes in the price of inputs, such as labor and energy.