Cost of Thanksgiving dinner shows slight increase 11.17.2010

Written by David Green.

with graphic


The price of a classic Thanksgiving dinner including turkey, stuffing, cranberries, pumpkin pie and all the basic trimmings increased by about 1.3 percent this year, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF).

AFBF’s 25th annual informal price survey of classic items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table indicates the average cost of this year’s feast for 10 servings is $43.47, a 56-cent price increase from last year’s average of $42.91. However, this year’s meal is actually $1.14 cheaper than what shoppers paid two years ago, when the total was $44.61. And the big ticket item—a 16-pound turkey—is actually cheaper this year at $17.66.

“While this year’s meal remains a bargain, at less than $4.35 per person, America’s farmers are perhaps most proud of the quality and variety of the food they produce for America’s dinner table,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “It is fitting that the food we produce from our land is a focal point of our nation’s thankful celebration of its collective bounty.”

And at just $4.35 per person, the traditional Thanksgiving feast is still a better deal than most fast-food value meals, said John Anderson, an AFBF economist. “Plus it’s a wholesome, home-cooked meal,” he said.

The AFBF survey 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 beverages of coffee and milk—all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10, with plenty for leftovers.

While a whole turkey is the biggest contributor to the final meal total, it is also the food item with the largest price decline compared to last year.

“Turkey prices are down some this year despite the fact that, according to Agriculture Department estimates, turkey production has been slightly lower in 2010 than in 2009 and supplies of turkey in cold storage are below last year’s level,” Anderson said. “This suggests that retailers are being fairly aggressive in featuring turkeys in special sales and promotions.”

A gallon of whole milk increased in price by 38 cents per gallon, to $3.24. Other items that showed a price increase from last year are: a 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix, $2.62, up 17 cents; two nine-inch pie shells, $2.46, up 12 cents; a half pint of whipping cream, $1.70, up 15 cents; three pounds of sweet potatoes, $3.19, up seven cents; a one-pound relish tray of carrots and celery, 77 cents, up five cents; and a dozen brown-n-serve rolls, $2.12, up four cents.

“Some of the Thanksgiving dinner items have rebounded from quite low price levels in 2009,” Anderson said. “For example, last year’s milk price was at its lowest level since 2001. Dairy product prices have climbed some in 2010, largely reflecting better consumer demand as the economy has gradually improved this year.”

A group of miscellaneous items, including coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (onions, eggs, sugar, flour, evaporated milk and butter), also increased in price to a combined total of $3.22.

Along with the turkey, other items that decreased in price this year are: one pound of green peas, $1.44, down 14 cents; and a 14-ounce package of cubed bread stuffing, $2.64, down one cent.

Another of the traditional Thanksgiving items, fresh cranberries, is unchanged from last year, with a 12-ounce package selling for $2.41.

Anderson said despite retail price increases during the last year or so, American consumers have enjoyed relatively stable food costs over the years, particularly when adjusted for inflation.

The 1.3 percent increase in the national average cost reported by Farm Bureau for this year’s classic Thanksgiving dinner tracks closely with the organization’s 2010 quarterly marketbasket food surveys, available online at http://newsroom.fb.org and the federal government’s Consumer Price Index, available online at http://data.bls.gov/.

Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers were 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. More than 112 volunteer shoppers from 34 states, including Michigan, participated in this year’s survey.

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