The annual Thanksgiving meal price survey was released by the American Farm Bureau Federation Thursday. It found turkey costs more than last year, at $23.99 for a 16-pound bird. That’s roughly $1.50 per pound, up 24% from 2020. Photo via the National Turkey Federation

published on November 18, 2021 - 12:47 PM
Written by The Business Journal Staff

On the list of stuff families around the Thanksgiving dinner table won’t be thankful for, inflation has to be near the top of the list this year.

In fact, the cost of a feast for 10 is $53.31 this year, up $6.41, or 14%, from last year’s average, according to the annual Thanksgiving meal price survey released by the American Farm Bureau Federation Thursday.

The increase is a departure from Thanksgiving 2020, when the average price was $46.90 — down 4% from 2019.

The centerpiece on most Thanksgiving tables – the turkey – costs more than last year, at $23.99 for a 16-pound bird. That’s roughly $1.50 per pound, up 24% from 2020.

The price survey comes as inflationary pressure has become a political football of assigned blamed, according to a blog at Progressive Farmer. The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its own statement finding the meal cost increase to be only 5%. Meanwhile, numbers alluded to by GOP Senators varied from both estimates.

“We know that even small price increases can make a difference for family budgets, and we are taking every step we can to mitigate that. The good news is that the top turkey producers in the country are confident that everyone who wants a bird for their Thanksgiving dinner will be able to get one, and a large one will only cost $1 dollar more than last year,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers checked prices Oct. 26 to Nov. 8, about two weeks before most grocery store chains began featuring whole frozen turkeys at sharply lower prices. Although the survey timeline is consistent with past AFBF Thanksgiving surveys, 2021 brought some unique differences.

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture, grocery stores began advertising lower feature prices later than usual this year. Also, the average per-pound feature price for whole frozen turkeys was $1.07 the week of Nov. 5-11 and 88 cents the week of Nov. 12-18, a decline of 18% in just one week. This means consumers who have not yet purchased a turkey should be able to find one at a lower cost than the Farm Bureau average.

“Several factors contributed to the increase in average cost of this year’s Thanksgiving dinner,” said AFBF Senior Economist Veronica Nigh. “These include dramatic disruptions to the U.S. economy and supply chains over the last 20 months; inflationary pressure throughout the economy; difficulty in predicting demand during the COVID-19 pandemic and high global demand for food, particularly meat,” she explained. Further, “The trend of consumers cooking and eating at home more often due to the pandemic led to increased supermarket demand and higher retail food prices in 2020 and 2021, compared to pre-pandemic prices in 2019.”

The shopping list for Farm Bureau’s informal survey includes turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10 with plenty for leftovers.

“Taking turkey out of the basket of foods reveals a 6.6% price increase compared to last year, which tracks closely with the Consumer Price Index for food and general inflation across the economy,” said Nigh.


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