Cost of Thanksgiving meal rises slightly 2012.11.21

Written by David Green.

An annual survey looking for the average cost of the classic Thanksgiving meal shows that the cost of 10 thankful friends and family gorging themselves on turkey and side dishes should cost only about one  percent higher than last year.

The American Farm Bureau Federation's (AFBF) 27th annual Thanksgiving Dinner Price Survey shows the cost of Americans' favorite November meal barely increasing over last year's.

The prices of turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie and other traditional side dishes rang up to $49.48, just 28 cents more than in 2011. Michigan's contribution to the survey added up to the exact same total, but contained some deviations from the national averages for specific products.

Turkey here was 30 cents more per pound than the national average, while a gallon of Michigan milk was almost $1 less expensive. Pumpkin pie mix here was 90 cents pricier than the national average, but cranberries were 46 cents cheaper.

Most of the meal's higher average cost is attributable to a 3 to 4 cents-per-pound increase in the price of the turkey itself, which at $1.39 per pound totaled $22.24 for a 16-pound bird.

That modest increase is likely due to increased consumer demand this time of year, according to AFBF. Other meat products have been relatively more expensive in recent months; along with seasonal interest, that means higher demand for turkey.

Turkey production remains strong; the current supply of birds in cold storage is about 5 percent higher than a year ago.

The entire shopping list included the turkey (a frozen, self-basting young tom); herb-seasoned cube stuffing mix; Libby's Pumpkin Pie Mix; two 9-inch frozen pie shells; fresh sweet potatoes, carrots and celery; enriched brown-and-serve rolls; frozen green peas; a gallon of whole milk; fresh cranberries; whipping cream and a few other basic ingredients for tying everything together.

In addition to the turkey, the rolls, onions, eggs, sugar, flour and butter also increased slightly in price. Less expensive than last year are whipping cream, cubed bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, milk, cranberries, peas, pumpkin pie mix and pie shells. The carrots and celery remained unchanged.

Since the survey began in 1986, the average cost of the Thanksgiving meal has gradually inched upward from the mid- to upper $20 range. Ten years ago the bill totaled $34.56; a decade before that it was $26.39.

Americans spend far less for food—approximately 10 percent of their disposable income—than do citizens of any other nation.

This year's survey averaged retail grocery costs found by 150 volunteer shoppers at grocery stores in 35 states. The annual study is unscientific and Farm Bureau does not make any statistical claims about the survey data, but it is a useful gauge of price trends around the nation.

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