Every year, the American Farm Bureau Federation surveys the cost of a traditional Thanksgiving Day dinner. This year the cost of the overall meal is up slightly, but turkey prices are down. US turkey production has been down slightly this year. Thus wholesale prices have been up, but that does not mean you will be paying more for bird at the center of your holiday table. AFBF economist John Anderson stated, “Turkey production has been down some this year, so you might think that would contribute to a higher retail price. But that’s really not what we’ve seen if you look at the last couple of months of information from USDA on turkey prices. Their retail prices have been lower. Wholesale turkey prices have been a little higher, so what we may be seeing is retailers deciding to take a little lower margin to get people in the store.” A whole turkey will average $21.65 a decrease of $1.35 per lb. from last year.
Anderson said higher prices some of the other items on the table contributed to the slightly higher price of the meal, “A few things that did increase though were sweet potatoes; pumpkin pie mix was up a little bit; and probably the items that were up more than anything else, although still not a major move, were the dairy-related products. We have whipping cream and whole milk in the survey, and we also have miscellaneous items which includes butter.” The cost of a traditional Thanksgiving Day meal for 10 was found to be $49.41, up just 39 cents from a year ago.
But, as Anderson points out, the cost of the meal is a testament to the bounty and productivity of American agriculture, “The cost of our Thanksgiving meal works out to less than $5 per serving. That’s incredibly affordable. To be able to provide a special holiday meal for your family really for less than the cost of a fast food meal is remarkable, and it’s something that we shouldn’t take for granted.”
The cost of the meal has remained under $50 for the past several years. The cost for a traditional Thanksgiving meal in Indiana decreased from 2013 to 2014, according to an informal survey of grocery prices from Indiana Farm Bureau. This is the second year in a row the survey total has decreased. The annual survey indicates that the average cost for this year’s Thanksgiving meal for 10 is $46.93, down nearly $1.19 from last year’s average of $48.12 and down more than $4 from the 2012 total of $51.05 (an all-time high for the survey).
“As a consumer, I’m very happy to see prices continue to go down,” said Isabella Chism, Indiana Farm Bureau second vice president. “As a farmer, I’m honored to help produce the food for family Thanksgiving celebrations.”
The shopping list includes turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and both coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10. There is also plenty for leftovers.
The Indiana survey was conducted by 29 volunteer shoppers who went into local grocery stores around the state and collected the price information. Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers are asked to look for the best possible prices, without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals, such as spending $50 and receiving a free turkey. The big-ticket item – a 16-pound turkey – was $20.96 or $1.31 per pound, a decrease of 13 cents per pound and$2.08 overall. Other prices that decreased on the survey were cranberries, which dropped by 30 cents per 12-ounce bag to $2.14; stuffing, which dropped by 22 cents to $2.40; a 16-ounce bag of peas, which dropped by 2 cents to $1.38; a two-pack of frozen pie shells, which dropped by a penny to $2.33; and a 1-pound relish tray of carrots and celery, down 1 cent to 83 cents.
The largest increase was for sweet potatoes, which rose by 21 cents per pound for a total average price of $3.60 for 3 pounds. Other increases: a combined group of miscellaneous items including coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (onions, eggs, sugar, flour, evaporated milk, and butter) rose 28 cents to $3.48; a half-pint of whipping cream rose 27 cents to $1.89; whole milk increased by 17 cents per gallon to $2.93; pumpkin pie filling rose by 7 cents per 30-ounce can to $3.14; and a dozen rolls rose by 3 cents to $1.86.